My Shelf

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Essays

I’m something of a closet nerd. This isn’t just because of how much time I spend online or playing video games, although that certainly contributes. What really makes me a nerd is the 15-foot long shelf in my bedroom.

I’ve had the three-foot-high white bookshelves for as long as I can remember, but it was only about five years ago that I began my fascination with knick-knacks, action figures and other objects of sentimental value. It’s pretty impressive, really. There are easily over a hundred individual pieces on the shelf.

My mother always tries to get me to pack it all up in a box and bring it down to the basement, or the knick-knack graveyard. She says that I’m not being fair to myself when I have to dust the shelf off, along with everything else on it. Perhaps not, but I enjoy the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with all my stuff, and smile inwardly with the knowledge that every time I clean, I end up leaving everything in a different pattern, and different mini-sagas are being told.

Roman soldiers I bought on our trip to England six years ago could finally get their chance to drive that purple corvette I got when I was eight, a ninja might highjack Luke Skywalker’s Lego speeder, and Halo’s Spartan super-soldiers and their sworn enemies, the ferocious alien Elites, may reconcile their differences and agree to spending a month watching the Incredible Hulk’s interminable grimace while ignoring the nearby custom spray-painted plastic soldiers on the firing line about to execute their brother-in-arms for high treason.

The brilliant part is that everything barely fits on the shelf. It’s just perfect. I’m able to make all these random parts fit together like pieces to a puzzle. The Creature From the Black Lagoon, once a lame toy from a Happy Meal, now plays a key role looming over the toy cars packed neatly together on top of the certificate I received after getting a silver medal in the National Latin Exam.

I think my middle school and high school diplomas are buried in there somewhere, too. I never really bothered to check. Maybe the Lego R2-D2 that peers out the window saw them. Or maybe the dueling glass Coke bottle and the aluminum Sprite can did. I remember being crushed when I learned that the same company owns them both; I trusted nothing for a month.

I can sense you judging me. Don’t. Look, it takes over two hours to dust everything off. I figure I should do whatever it takes to entertain myself and make the process bearable.

It’s not all nerdy, either. I try to counterbalance.

There are trophies and medals from baseball, lacrosse, swimming and basketball. I have a letter and pins from my High School. I still have my trophy from the “Daniel M. Kelly Walk-A-Thon” from when I spent my third grade at Tansey Elementary. Sure, maybe you had to buy the trophy after you finished the walk-a-thon. That’s not the point. A trophy’s a trophy.

Several airplanes and helicopters occupy their own section next to the trophies, although I’ve always been slightly peeved that they were all modern flight craft. I once got really jealous of my nephew when he got a biplane in a pack. I guess it would have been too small to be displayed with my others, anyway.

There’s the model I made of the Battleship Massachusetts, where I had my first job the summer going into high school. I didn’t have the red I needed for the hull, so the whole boat is still a fog-gray. I like to think that it’s camouflaged even better than the real thing. Next to it is a small confederate flag I bought for less than a dollar in an antique shop. Apparently, they aren’t in high demand in New England.

The cases for every Nintendo DS game I’ve ever bought occupy their own shelf. Somewhat ironically, the next one over houses all my literature: Dante, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Freud, Hemingway, Capote and a vacancy for my Bible which is currently downstairs next to my Xbox.

Speaking of literature, two shelves are noticeably empty; all my Archie comics went down into the graveyard. I didn’t realize how many there were until I had to haul the boxes down two flights of stairs. Now, they’re in-between my favorite childhood toys, my countless plastic toy soldiers and my original Thomas the Tank Engine playset; I’d build a track in an afternoon, play with it a couple times over the next few days, and scream and cry like I just lost my best friend when my mom would show up with the vacuum almost a month later. My basement sometimes floods… maybe someday I’ll put the boxes up on bricks.

There’s still a fortune of comics in my room, along with magazines, movies and CD’s. I suppose what I’m most embarrassed by is the music I used to listen to… I don’t like to think about it. I will say that it rhymes with “Mackstreet Moys.”

There’s several posters I got from magazines on the walls, usually calendars advertising games I never bought. There’s a poster of Fenway Park I bought when I was in Cooperstown. Pictures of my family are scattered throughout the shelf. Now obscured by a Croatian flag and an Irish flag is a self-portrait I did when I was three years old. It’s a good thing my parents decided to put the label on it saying what it was; I never would have figured it out.

On the opposite wall, perpendicular to the wall the shelf runs along, is a print I made when I was in the eighth grade. In four different-colored quadrants (yellow, blue, green and purple, I think), a large-headed, large-eyed caricature looks straight out with a neutral emotion and flat mouth. My math teacher at the time offered to pay me for it, she liked it so much. She wanted to put it in the room for her new baby. I made a copy for the obviously delusional woman and gave it to her.

Now, it watches over my shelf, perhaps curious of the new additions I make, perhaps saddened by those rare instances when I take things away, and probably always judging my mother when she comes in to tell me to just stuff everything in a box so the shelves can finally be clear. After all, it must think, what other purpose does an empty shelf serve than to give you a place to put all your stuff?

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