When a large package arrives with a yellow sticker that says 'Fragile', what do you do? You try and be gentle with wrappers mainly because, like book jackets, painting frames, accompanists at a music concert, they set the tone for the reading, the art, the song.
Unpacking gifts is heartbreaking. All the paraphernalia that has endured the journey will be forgotten once you reach the essence. Some packagings make it tough, for prising them open is a test of how artful you are.
You slice through the tape, and the scissors get sticky. Then tap on the cardboard; it produces a hollow sound. Hollow sounds are somewhat like a pit-of-the-stomach dull ache that never quite leaves. Something shines, you inch towards it and find silver foil, thick silver foil that seems cushioned. You squeeze it lightly, wondering what it can possibly be layered with. Open it and there is a purple wrapper, its matte finish like the colour of a sleek wall in a quiet alcove of a restaurant where whispers listen to whispers. You are not sure about the red satin ribbon, and whether it is time yet to leave everything to gain something. There is a card with a printed message. Unsigned. It is to nobody from nobody. You are the mystery to a mystery, when nothing is not nothing.
There is also a heavy white icepack, snuggling a carry bag that holds the box. Chocolates. Or, ginger coated with chocolate, or chocolate covering ginger. How do you try and understand what covers whom or what? The tastes of both merge, as though they were meant for each other. It is not a combination you have tasted ever before; the newness and your love for ginger and chocolate coming together is a surprise, comforting in its familiarity.
The forlorn packaging stares at you, certain about its destiny to the bin. Instead, you fold up the silver foil, the purple wrapper, the satin ribbon, place them in the bag and stack them away in the small storage space you have. You put the icepack in the freezer, the small card in the draw.
Why do you do all this? Is it because the chocolates will soon be eaten, leaving the box empty? No. Foils too disintegrate over time. You do this because it happens without any deliberation and effort. You respect gifts, not just for what they are but for how they come to you and how they come to be what they are, and sometimes what they are not.
When you bite into one piece of the chocolate that is not a chocolate really, you realise the taste changes. If it is straight from the fridge, you have to crack it open and it makes a creaking door sound, the ginger cold on the tongue. If you've kept it out for long, a little brown marks the fingers and then melts in the mouth, playing with the ginger.
They are different experiences. Just as you are. Light and shadow.
You part the curtains and watch the lane below. It is starkly dark, and you move to the other side of the window and it is all lit up. How can you decide what is better or worse, or for better or for worse?
You pick up the old desk calendar and only then realise you don't yet have a new replacement. It does not matter. Water evaporates in the eyes.
© Farzana Versey
Welcome to another many-layered year...
Painting: Journey of the Magi by Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni)