I have been keeping them for a year. They are enough in number in size to furnish a whole apartment. We sqeezed them in boxes and bags, broken down into corners and closets of my old, tiny, furnished efficiency. Now it furnishes my new place, it makes my place look like a home. Without her things all I have is a papasan chair, a rickety bookshelf, a computer and TV with nothing to put them on, and a stool I've had since I was 17.

People would pity me and even chastise me for keeping her things for so long, never knowing how long I'd be responsible for them or when she'd come back, if ever. I helped her move them in and I moved them once already and I will likely help her move them out.

When people leave parts of themselves behind, you tend to attach meaning to those things. They become a symbol of that person's life, their presence in your life. When Rhonda comes to get her things, it will be bare all over. Bare in the cupboards, since I don't own any dishes or silverware. Bare in the closets and cubby holes, since I have nothing in boxes. Bare on the floors where her rugs have added color.

As much as I cursed her name when I was toting all those boxes through the worst heat wave of the season, I still don't want her to come get her things. Because that means she will not be coming back. She will go back to Massachusetts where she is embarking college for the first time. She will become, like all my other dear friends, long distance, someone I write to, call, and miss with aching. She will be another friend who has put down roots before me while I am still floating around, searching for a place to anchor myself.

She has always been like a mother to me. She cooks and sews and makes her own clothes. She is only a few years older than me but she has always looked out for me. Like my mother, when Rhonda tells me she is proud of me, I know I have accomplished something.

When you keep someone's things, you keep a light burning for them so they can find their way back to you. You can do this with your heart, your hopes, your dreams. Sometimes they come to stay because it's you they've come for. Sometimes they can't help but come for what belongs to them as you wave goodbye.

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