Leon has been buying abandoned storage units. I name them as they come in: The homeless unit; the punk rock/junkie unit; the Mexican unit; the PFLAG unit. They are what I have come to call “The tomb of uncompleted expectations.” My friend Ostap used this term to describe his mother’s room in her tiny apartment in Lviv, Ukraine. After her death he spent two months trying to make some order in that room. It was full of mounds of cloth she had sewn her entire life, yet not one of which had been made into a single garment. He threw away hundreds, maybe thousands of unconnected pieces. And in doing so he saw the very sad result of one’s life, or maybe I should say the absence of result.
And so it is with the storage units. Among the refuse and treasure are stories of lives that expand out like ripples from a fallen stone into a dark depth. Three boxes of used hypodermic needles in bright yellow plastic boxes; photos plastered to coffee cans; two Mexican passports, a video camera; an industrial microwave; a plethora of lacy padded bras; baby socks still in their packaging; bird houses; rosaries; bicycles; hoodies that zip up with eyeholes of black mesh.
When Leon brought home his first load, it was what I dubbed the homeless unit, and it took him days to recover from his despair at the realization that here was all that was left of a person’s life. A few wooden Indonesian figurines painted a dark green, a medical marijuana card for the San Francisco bay Area, Burning Man stickers and Otter’s Oasis emblems. I was intrigued by Otter’s Oasis and found it to be an online detox depot selling clean kits for hair and saliva, synthetic urine, and a wide variety of exotic hookahs.
Leon’s business partner Christopher Robin informed him that he could bring back certain personal effects to the storage facility, so now Leon is careful to set aside x-rays, photographs, passports in the unlikely case that a person returns to inquire as to the whereabouts of their abandoned possessions.
And Ostap, as he wandered the streets of Lviv this past spring and summer, saw the new fashion to be a patchwork quilt from the sixties and seventies. A kind of kindness kiss from his mother, sashaying past him in a parade of color.
Eugenia Hepworth Petty’s poems and/or photographs have appeared in literary journals in Europe, Asia and North America. A chapbook of her prose poems, Pamyat Celo/Memory Village, was published in 2007. She is currently the Art and Photography Editor for the online journal Newport Review.