Kleptomania and the compulsory imprisonment of memories and the natural wish against freedom and the many troves we keep

Back in my apartment, inside my moldy closet, I keep a small little chest. Inside of it are tangible fragments of my most important memories, as relics, as all I hold of most valuable in my person. It’s not about objective value; I’m not talking jewelry or money; but of subjective value: as what I see of most precious in the entire world.

From a decade-old ketchup sachet to a Pokémon booster pack, and all the way to blood vials and stranger’s baby teeth, I keep inside my little chest a ridiculously varied assortment of memories, all represented by iconic mementos. Like that time we broke dozens of bottles in one of the city’s main avenues (and I kept a shard), or when I took Rosenrot to the E.R. because she could not drink a whole bottle of Jack (and I stole a syringe), or when that homeless guy broke my arm in a fight (and I kept a piece of his jacket), or when we stole kilos of sugar from cafés downtown in the course of a week (and I, naturally, kept a packet).

They’re like spoils of a war fought only much later, war of memory, when my mind of today clashes against the recollections of what feels like past lives. Each little object holds a story, of many “mes” as characters and so other characters outside of me, with a disturbing inconsistency of feeling.

You see, I don’t choose what to remember, but that doesn’t mean I lack in memories. Much au contraire, I remember way too much. From what’s most important to what feels extremely trivial, the importance I give to things is much beyond my own reasonable, objective thinking. I can’t avoid caring only about what I don’t choose to care about, and that’s both a blessing and a curse; you know, the idea of being nothing but a controlled vessel.

I don’t mind it when my mind and body are doing their own thing, independent of me, as long as the “whole me” remains comfortable and true to my own idea of me. But when I start forgetting things, or when my behavior reaches damning, uncontrollable levels; then I’m forced to recognize that giving up control of my body to instinct is not at all a good idea. But being so deep into the downward spiral of this lifestyle also doesn’t help in changing things for the better. In the end, it really is not up to me.

Now, coming from this concept of forcibly keeping memories, the same can apply to the souvenirs themselves. Unfortunately, I often find myself stealing stuff and have been diagnosed as kleptomaniac. The disorder, though, is directly connected to my instinctive system of collecting memories. I don’t really care about what I’m taking, and when I do, it doesn’t feel any special. It’s not about the act or the object itself, but about the subconscious, intrinsic meaning I give to the latter. In other words, my mind determines on its own the importance of the moment I’m living, and decides on the necessity of having a memento; and that leads to me stealing the most strange stuff, and keeping seemingly random memories for a really long time.

Sure, if that happened once or twice a month it wouldn’t be a problem at all, but when I go out and, every time, come back home with pockets full of trash, then I know something’s up. But I’m also exaggerating a bit, it’s not that much trash, though it’s enough for me to have learned at this point how to categorize and understand the real value of each object. Even having a little space to store what truly is the most precious, that is, my little chest, hidden inside my moldy closet.

I have always considered it a trove, though the treasure there can only be mine, for obvious reasons; it is my trove, of glaring trash and unspeakable keepsakes. Of my history and my past, with me as all instances and forms of myself. Mondo chest, the bizarre reality of the I, but also a practice much more common than I’m making it up to be. Everybody has their little trove, be it that one cinema ticket you never used because you couldn’t find someone to share the discounted double-ticket and realized you definitely need more friends, losing its ink inside your wallet for over five years; or that BFF bracelet you made with your best friend from 4th grade that moved out of town that same year and you lost connection with, but still keep it inside your jewelry box despite not being used for two decades now, being there only to remind you of what you remember to be your only ever true friend; or even, would you look that, the only gift your son ever gave to you before his dad kicked him out of the house, as a little, colorful drawing with the words “I love you, mom”, that you keep inside your Bible and kiss every time you miss him very much. It’s normal to keep memories in tangible form, souvenirs, to remind you of the wonderful things you once had, the quiet and cheerful moments before the storm, et cetera, inside a place where it’ll last.

I believe now you can pretty much guess why this blog’s picture archive is called “The Trove”, right? The same way that little chest holds many of my compulsory memories, this archive now holds hundreds of other attempts at exactly that.

Ever since I got my trusty old camcorder, almost half a year ago now, and started taking it with me everywhere I go, my kleptomania got pretty much subsided. Stealing and capturing memories inside of random objects was replaced by stealing and capturing moments inside of pictures! Now I’m a photographer too, and my mind and body have taken the opportunities presented with such realization, and eased my troubles a bit. Though now I’m taking photos of literally everything.

Pictures are a very valid way of keeping memories, that is, to the average person. It isn’t hard to snap a photo of the one you love, or that place you love, or that night you taught your daughter how to make spaghetti, or of yourself after a spa day, feeling super cute and smooth. Checking out the photos, looking back to those moments, you’re gonna feel like you accomplished your duty of “never forgetting what’s truly important”, and you probably won’t be wrong. Thousands of pictures later, Facebook will remind you of your achievements. When it comes to people like me, though, things can be a little more complicated.

There’s a need for deeper meaning even in the littlest things I do, because I need that to stay afloat in the endless sea of my depression. So photography, despite not being much of a privilege — or that special of a thing — today, is given an extra layer of importance from the moment I put the camera in my backpack, to the moment I’m culling through pictures to decide on which are the most decent. I have decided that photographs are not necessarily about saving memories, but about imprisoning fragments of space-time. Sure that if you dig in for the logic of that statement you’re going to find out that there’s much more that should go into it to make any sense, but the less you think about it, the more you’ll get where I’m coming from.

When you take a picture of a flower, or the sky, or a person walking on the street, that picture pertains to that moment only, to that position only, in a way that no picture could ever be the same for everywhere around you is constantly changing. Like the river thing. Therefore, when you snap a picture, it’s like you’re transforming eternal a unique point in constant existence. You’re capturing a moment, imprisoning a scenario, selfishly making yours a very small fragment of the infinite. In a smaller scale, you are indeed capturing a memory: an image of that one scenario at that one time, looking like it did in that 0 second you decided would be. In an even smaller scale, the feeling, your feeling towards that image, you decided to save for posterior motives. Once you take your pictures, they’re yours. You are the warden of a subjective prison, deciding on the stay and release of your inmates, on past, present and future, and on numbers and values.

The Trove, so your trove, are prisons. They are our egotistic ways of chaining moments and memories to us for as long as we live, forcing them to be ours, forcing them to exist under our grace, forcing them out of their freedom; the freedom of being forgotten, the freedom of a momentary existence. Memories are not supposed to be forever, so is any moment in our lives. We’re supposed to live upon the present and look ahead, to the future, to the consequences of our actions, not to the actions themselves. But do we do it? Do we ever achieve such absolute freedom ourselves? Or do we not, and insist in taking away the freedom of what’s under our power, imprisoning them ourselves, imprisoning ourselves? We’re all our own prisoners, but also the guards and the ones who constructed the bars. We live off past, we detest not doing so. At least I do, at least I am.

So when you go into The Trove and see pictures of a bug, or a tree, or a group of people, know that the meaning it might lack to you remains true to me. Section titles and, paraphrasing, “petulant commentaries” are my way of organizing this prison and making it able to receive visitors, that can at least point out the basics of each inmate-memory. I don’t take pictures for no reason, there’s always a reason, and some things may be much bigger than they seem on television.

So, want to read a cool little story about my kleptomania acts? Try out the chronicle of when my boss took me as his +1 to a gala party and I met a charming guy and I poisoned him up and stole his shit.

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