Was it always so? Did I always need a little space of my own, my solitary abode I could retreat to every now and then? Or is this need for solitude a new awakening within me, one sprung from the same desire that makes me stitch words together?
I remember a cardboard box from my girlhood days. It perhaps came with a refrigerator, or maybe a computer when they were built massive. Or was it not a T.V. carton?
I can’t tell exactly how it came into my possession. But I was more excited about the box itself than the valuable item it was made for. I asked my parents if I could keep it. (My mother still calls me a collector of all things useless.)
For a whole summer, I called the cardboard box home. In the afternoons, I would carry it outdoors and lock myself away for hours. I remember asking papa to carve a door in its frame (I wasn’t allowed to use paper-cutters then). I also made a latch of sorts with bits of cardboard so as to keep intruders at bay.
There was nothing specific I did when inside it. I did not write or draw or read. I did not play with my dolls or adorn it with my tea-things. But I felt more myself within that box than elsewhere. It was as though I could understand myself better only when the world around me disappeared.
Sometimes, my sister would come by and ask if I would share my box with her. I turned her down every time—I wanted the box all to myself. Though I may have let her experience what it was to be inside it once or twice.
In my opinion, everyone should at least once in their lifetime know what it is to be inside a cardboard box. It’s a world in itself. A world of dreams and young hopes and healing. Of course I do not boast of knowing these things when I was little, but perhaps a deeper conscious in me was aware of such facts?
Inside the box, I bothered nobody and nobody bothered me. I remember feeling hidden from the world even as the world was hidden from me. It’s a feeling I search for now, when the urge to hide myself from the world is too strong to deny.
Later that summer, the corners of my beloved cardboard box fell apart and it could stand on its own no more. I couldn’t find another one and soon outgrew the box-phase.
Then perhaps it was always there, this need for the deep solitude of being, this cardboard box that would hide me from the world. It becomes even more urgent when I find myself amid people, in crowded rooms.
I no longer possess one such box. But I no longer need it in its physical, concrete form. I now carry a cardboard box within me. I retreat to it whenever I hope to, like now.