As most things do, it all started when I was younger; I think I was six when I first found myself wondering about objects and their past lives, I had picked up a blue plastic watch, with a picture of a little dog behind the clock. It was stuck on 23 minutes past two, I wore it until it no longer fitted around my wrist. The little blue watch now holds a place of honour in between the other watches, I look at it often, and do what I always used to do: imagine the life it used to have, before it was picked up by my little hands.
That story, The First, is now canon within my collection of stories, without it, the others would fall, drift away and get lost, or at least crumble a little. Rick owned the watch before I did, he was seven when he lost it, he’d started to dislike the picture of the little dog anyway, felt he was too old for a cute picture like that around his wrist. The watch had been with him since his fifth birthday, his aunty Michelle had given it to him, along with a card with race cars on the front an a hug during which he couldn’t breathe because of the amounts of perfume aunty Michelle always carried on her rather large body. He’d liked it for the first few years, but then resentment about the watch had started to grow, especially because his parents now always assumed he would be perfectly on time, just because he now knew the time. On the fourteenth of June he was sick of it, after having been berated, again, for being five minutes late, “haven’t you learned how to read the time by now? You’re seven, for God’s sake!”, he gave the watch a good whack against a stone whilst his parents were busy loading the car, it had stood still from then on. Three days later, walking ten paces behind his parents, he’d dropped the now useless piece of plastic in the sand, it was alone for three nights and four days when I found it. Rick got another watch from his aunty for his eight birthday, this time circumventing the hug by couching loudly in her direction.The new watch had a brown leather band, and was for grown up boys, according to aunty, he wore it until it was ruined by jumping along in the pool during a holiday in France.
After the watch other objects followed quickly, a bright orange flowy scarf which at first I thought belonged to Louise, although I’m now certain it was Estelle’s, a little hairpin with a plastic dolphin which had previously had its place in Anna’s hair, and a half-eaten candy bar from John that my mother made me throw away after six days even though I never had the intention of eating it, just looking used to be enough. Years later I found a green lunchbox, peanut butter sandwiches and a bright red apple still inside, I’d put it in my fridge (found when I was walking at night, in front of a house whose owners were moving) so it would not mould too soon. Not because I wanted to eat it, because that was a line I wouldn’t cross, I’d always told myself, but because I could enjoy watching its contents longer. I caved at four in the morning, and as I was taking small bites of the by now very stale sandwiches I truly felt myself becoming Victor, who still lived with his parents even though he was nearly thirty, and whose mother, Diane, made the sandwiches early in the morning, hoping he would for once also eat his apple.
After a few years the things I found could no longer be hidden away under my bed and my parents began to get worried about me, called me a hoarder in hurried whispers when they thought I couldn’t hear. I understood I had to change my ways, and started combining the objects, forming new ones out of them, but always allowing them to keep their past lives. My mother has proudly called me her ‘aspiring little artist’ from when I was just shy of fourteen. I live in a sea of lives. The lampshade made from empty crisp bags is now owned by me, but also collectively by twenty-six others. The rug underneath my feet, made from weaving together forgotten scarves, has lived thirty-eight past lives. My bed used to belong to old Mrs. Perkins, who died in it. Lately I’ve starting cutting little strands of people’s hair, when they’re asleep in the train sitting next to me, or when they’re waiting in the doctor’s office, too anxious to take notice of the sound my old clippers make, once even when I was walking behind a girl, Rose, her giant headphones blocking any sound I might make. For now I put the strands in an old sandwich bag, all mingling together, until I will one day have enough to fill a pillowcase, I already know which one, and can rest my weary head upon them.