All at once the scales were removed from my eyes (as the Bible says) and I can see. I can see that I have too much stuff. I’ve been reading about these micro apts. Mayor Bloomberg is having built in NYC that are 300 sq. feet (more about those in another blog). I’m going to pretend that’s all the space I have and “get rid of.” My first divestiture attempt is the overflowing stacks of books I’ve collected over the years. I called a neighborhood vintage bookseller and she agreed to come and look at what I had. That call was the only thing I did that day that’s how exhausting it was to think of peeling myself away from my belongings.
I dragged out about one hundred books and laid them on every surface of the living room. I began to get nervous. What if, like Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest the woman looked at my books and uttered the collector’s equivalent of that bitchy line “What a dump!”
I decided to prepare myself the way mothers prepare their children for a flu shot.
The doctor’s going to take a needle and prick your arm.
No, no. It’s going to hurt.
It will only hurt for a second and then you’ll get a treat.
Consuelo, what are you hoping to get out of this?
A good home for the books and maybe a few bucks.
Suppose she comes in and says, I’m looking for serious first editions or rare books. Your books are pedestrian.
She won’t say that.
She might just walk out and that would be the same thing.
Yes, that could happen.
How will that make you feel?
Ashamed and delusional.
Why don’t you think about it now so you can be prepared.
I thought about it for a minute or two.
Ok. I’m prepared.
The woman came. She filled three quarters of a box with books leaving 95% of the inventory. She spoke three succinct sentences at the appropriate moments: Hello. I won’t need another box. How about forty dollars? I had the nerve to ask , “Can you make it fifty?” She nodded and gave me cash. When I pointed out several books I thought might sell well, she said: “Condition issue.” Hemingway would have loved this woman’s dialogue. She took two copies of In Cold Blood. Joan Didion’s Play it as it Lays. Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie. The Letters of Virginia Woolf (I will miss those high-strung crazies in the Bloomsbury crowd), Catcher In The Rye, a dvd of Duke Ellington and a couple of children’s books. I gave her an Annie Dillard galley for free.
When she left I was exhausted. I thought it was from nervousness or dragging out all those books but it was something else. She had broken the spell of “holding on.” I could hardly wait to pack up the rest of the books and everything else I didn’t need and take it to a good home and away from mine.