The things in our house we haven’t gotten rid of threaten to overtake us. They collect dust and bear the possibility of silverfish and brown spiders with violin backs and gauzy white egg sacks. We dig them out of garage bins, attic storage, and bedroom closets. Nearly all of it is baby toys or decor from our dismantled nursery. Our son is seven: too old to still be interested but too young to let go willingly.
So we sneak, shoving items we think we’ll sell or donate into big plastic shopping bags. Others go into the trash: the muscular arm of an action figure, a DayGlo green sticky hand covered in dog hair and dust.
I list things online for sale. Someone Venmos me for a lime green toddler glide bike. I set it out, and the person comes when I’m gone to take it. Easy.
I list lamps, a wagon, outgrown soccer cleats, shin guards.
I begin watching the porch when I know someone is coming for their purchase. I watch them inspect the things—turning them over, rubbing at a scuff mark, considering whether the money they’ve already paid is worth it. No one ever complains. They take the things and leave.
I dig for more. I root through my husband’s closet when he takes our child to soccer practice. I find things I think he’s forgotten: cufflinks he’s never worn, a stack of leather-bound journals he meant to write in but has left blank, an expensive coat he says is too warm even on the coldest winter day. I list them.
I no longer care for the rug in the living room or the painting above the fireplace. The gas log in the hearth annoys me with its perfectly sculpted ceramic bark. I list them.
Everything is sold before they come back from soccer. My husband rakes his hand through his hair and paces, tells me not to sell things, especially not his things, without talking to him first. I sit politely and listen, nodding.
“That makes sense,” I tell him. He looks at me with his head cocked to the side. Then he walks away.
I go back to the listings. I add sheets of blank paper I’ve kissed for a dollar each. I brush the dog, put the fur in a Ziploc baggie, and list it. I make a listing for a single smile that doesn’t stretch to my eyes. I list grief over an only child growing out of fleece footy pajamas, a tiny pair of Bigfoot slippers, wooden castle blocks.
There are buyers for everything.
I cut off my hair and list it by strands of fifty. My husband finds me bald, counting.
“I need more things to list,” I say, beginning to shake.
He puts his hand on my shoulder, afraid for me and for him. My tears begin then. He pulls a cup from the pantry and scoops it along my cheeks.
“Here,” he says. “Here... You can list these.” But I shake my bare head at him.
“Take over?” I ask. He sits silently and counts out the hairs.
I go to my computer, suddenly feeling hopeful. There must be sellers for everything too.
I search for my son’s arms made small again to hug me. A breeze from the day summer turns to fall. A hike up an aspen-lined trail. I search for wildflower stamen and the dust from a gravel road. I search for anyone who can sell me an afternoon of quiet from this need.