The only thing I distinctly remember from the whole process of moving houses doesn’t occur during the move or the unpacking. It comes much later, after the brightness of the new place fades away and all the college students who helped us have trickled back to the university. It comes after we’ve organized my brother’s and my room.
For some reason the television ends up in his room. The television is an old thing, a clunky modest grey and almost the shape of a cube, but not quite. To give you an understanding of how old it is, the television has a built-in VHS player underneath the screen. It comes on top of a small rolly piece of furniture, which perhaps in its previous life had been a bedside table. Ironically (though I wouldn’t know it at the time) it stands right next to the cable tv wall outlet, from which protrudes a cord that looks like it was bitten off by an over-eager dog. The television, once it is thrown away, is never replaced, and the days of me and my brother sitting together in front of the television arguing about what to watch grow more distant.
I digress. Days (or perhaps weeks—my thoughts have not turned back to past homes in years) after moving in, my brother and I are sitting in front of the television again. We are indecisive, as we always are, and so, as we have done so many times before, we decide we need to be reminded of just exactly how many choices we have. And so we search for the black CD case, a case that fits four CDs on every laminated plastic page. My memories have blurred since then, but back then, it seemed to go on for forever. There must have been hundreds of CDs, maybe thousands—or surely a number staggeringly large to a younger me.
But the house is large in its unfamiliarity. We search for hours. Or rather I search for hours, my brother growing tired of the fruitless search after maybe an hour and plodding back to his room.
We never find it.
Eventually I cave and go to my mother. I didn’t want her to know that we had been planning to watch a movie but I was getting worried at this point. Maybe my mother had hidden it on purpose to discourage us from watching movies? But no. When I ask her, she also joins the search.
The search stretches on for days. It is not an intense hunt, simply an intrusive thought whenever I look at a part of the room I haven’t thoroughly searched. Maybe it’s here—maybe it’s there—I’ve looked there, but maybe I’ll triple check—that box looks like it could hide something. (To this day, I haven’t refined my search methods, and so I’ll go back to the same drawer five, seven, seventeen times thinking I must have missed something.)
Nothing turns up for weeks and weeks.
By the end of those weeks my mother tells me it must have been lost in the moving process and blames my father. He, in turn, staunchly refutes this but has no other explanation for it.
Eventually the house forgets.
A few years down the road, I’ll make a comment about the black CD case, but my parents will look at me oddly and tell me that they don’t remember what I’m talking about. I don’t know why, but I’m left reeling. Am I really the only one who remembers?
It must be partly nostalgia, but the CD case evokes the same regret that I feel for the lost library of Alexandria when I think of the CD case. All that media, lost.
For a moment, I doubt my sanity. Maybe the black CD case never existed, and I dreamed it up in place of an imaginary friend.
But it must be real; there are too many details for it not to exist.
Countless memories of closing and opening the case with a little black zipper. The sound of the pages flipping, the plastic so different from the paper. And the CDs enclosed within that plastic.
At least two Barbie movies. Which I remember very clearly because only one of them was any good, and it was the Rapunzel one. Several arguments were had about this, because my brother (even though he secretly liked them, I swear) always protested when I wanted to watch one—and it was always a protest without an alternative movie, and it always included something to the effect of “ewww, it’s pink.”
Lilo and Stitch, which to this day makes me tear up.
Nemo, which does not.
Knockoff Nemo. The one that had sharks with lips in it.
At least one 뽀로로 (Pororo) CD. When I saw it years later, while babysitting, I wondered why I’d thought the plot was so much more intricate and interpersonal-drama-filled than it was.
All (and I do mean all) of Blue Planet. And the not-Blue Planet. The one with Earth instead. I remember that I pitched a fit when my father wanted to take all the CDs out of the lovely book-like case and stick them in the black CD container. And I was right; if he hadn’t done that we’d still have them
The Magic School Bus box set. We bought it for my cousins when they visited but they didn’t take it back with them. We used to watch them while demolishing the dried apples that my grandmother sent us.
And multiple pirated silver discs. They were always labeled with brown sharpie and they always were written in Korean. I think we had Shrek in there. As well as Howl’s Moving Castle. And Totoro. The last two had the option of Korean dub, which is how I fondly remember them. There were so many others, but they slip from the edges of my mind now.
Regardless, the pirated discs were from Boston. Which meant automatically that they were seven or eight years old at the time—we’d moved to Texas from the Northeast when I was around six. It always seemed like such a skilled job, cloaked in the mysteries of technology—something I would not know how to do (personally I’d probably have burned the CDs instead of burning the movies onto the CDs).
I remember that it was a whole industry (not really, and for the purposes of evading the law, all of what I’m writing is highly dramatized and basically fiction) and that we were careful with them. At the time they seemed so precious.
But they’ve now all disappeared with the rest of the case. And the children’s books have also gone, sold by my mother, and the pink bike I used to ride no longer fits me and has left the garage. I know intellectually that I’d never look at these if I still had them. I’d never use them—the world and I have both moved on. Now I watch movies in the theater with friends or at home on the computer. I read required books for class or novels that I only half-finish. I walk now, and it’s a novel experience to enjoy going more slowly. Even pirating technology has changed: torrenting and other illegal websites have replaced the materiality of a burnt CD. Regardless, a part of me longs for the state of simply possessing the past. A part of me longs to flip through the pages, remembering arguments and opinions.
Perhaps it is the absence that I feel most keenly. I would probably not have touched the CD case if it were still in my house, much less rifled through it. But now, in the quiet moments, it is all I can think about.