The first thing I look for in a jacket are inner pockets. You get to keep all your secrets in there. It could be a wand — maybe you really are magic. It could be a gun — ready to aim for the kill. It could be a passport — stamped with places you’ve never been before. Practically, I would keep some money and my phone in the inner pockets of the jacket I would be wearing when I travelled to some cold country overseas. But that’s not the question I’m asking myself — nor is it the one I’m asking you.
The question is: What parts of ourselves do we keep in those inner pockets?
In Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, there is a quote near the end of the book that I haven’t noticed in all my repeat readings of it until I was nearly done with my literature essay for class.
It goes: “Don’t you think it’s strange that life, described as so rich and full, a camel-trail of adventure, should shrink to this coin-sized world? A head on one side, a story on the other. Someone you loved and what happened. That’s all there is when you dig in your pockets.”
To be fair, the entire book is about love, and language, and the language of love. It’s all very postmodern and sometimes I don’t even really understand it myself. But that quote reminded me of the characteristics of what I keep hidden in my pockets: it must be important to me, something I hold dear, it must have some significance — or a story — behind it, and it must be something that I want to keep away and sheltered from the world.
I’d like to think that it’s not very easy to pickpocket something from an inner pocket. The pickpocket would probably need a very small knife to cut through the fibres of the fabric, and have fast hands in order to grab what he wants. Even then, it’s a risk. It may not contain anything at all. Too much trouble, and a risk of having no rewards.
Not a risk worth taking.
But then again, why is it that one of the clichés of love, that people like to sing love songs about, say that your heart is there to to be stolen away? Steal my heart. Steal your heart. It’s not really an easy task, is it? I mean, sure, there might be people who can take your breath away — another cliché — but the heart?
My heart is hidden in my inner pockets, tucked deep inside, invisible to the naked eye. It is something important to me — because I don’t want a broken heart (yet another cliché), something that keeps me alive — literally, and something that is not easily taken away by the world.
My love, I can give. Its abundance is provided by the warmth of the lining of the fabric between the inner and outer pockets. Love is ebbing, ever flowing… sometimes to love someone is hard work, but somehow you’ll get there if you dig deep enough into your pockets. But my heart? Another quote from Written on the Body gives the answer, “You never give away your heart; you lend it from time to time. If it were not so how could we take it back without asking?” So I keep my heart with me.
My inner pockets hide my anxiety, perhaps made more apparent by the words I type each week. As I try to write about love and relationships, I delve more and more into my psyche, my thoughts, my emotions, and a lot of it is just pure anxiety. I don’t even know what I’m so anxious for. So I just hide my anxiety — as much as I can — and I keep it away until I can bring it out, figure it out, and throw it away.
I keep my identity in my inner pockets. Not a superficial card that tells you my name and address, but more of who I am. I keep writing because that’s who I am. I keep telling stories because that’s who I am. I am kind and I am selfish and I probably have to change the parts of me that are keeping me from growing but I keep my identity in my inner pockets: a jade ring that used to belong to my great grandmother, my arsenal of recipes I learnt from her, my mother, telling me for the umpteenth time that it’s time for me to go to bed, harry potter geekery, the friends I stay up late for, and others I wake up early to have breakfast with, the mystery of how I keep leaving things to be done at the last minute but I never like leaving things undone… All these little things that make up my story, that make up who I am.
I keep them close, and I keep them safe.
Just like how I keep my belongings safe when I’m in an unfamiliar place, even when I’m raring up to go on an adventure just so I can have a sense of security that I will never be lost, I keep things safe: some things, I’m not ready to dig deep for yet; other things I know I need in order to be anchored into solid ground.
So I guess my question to you is: what do you keep safe?
To Fridays is a weekly column that hopes to be able to give you all the encouragement and love in the world. #tofridaysvp