Any object can represent something entirely different than the thing itself. When I first moved into my own place, I bought these grade school scissors as the cheapest available tool for cutting things, like paper, facial hair, etc. I have used them as a screwdriver, a bottle opener, and even an Allen wrench. I keep them sharpened well beyond their child-safe intention. Don’t let the rust fool you, they still serve me well after 29 years. But what these scissors evoke for me is the essence of lost opportunities.
Let me preface the story, for those who don’t know me intimately, by revealing that I was an asocial lad: Bookish and introverted. I failed to become socialized by the public schools that I attended, instead driven by taunts into my own world. In high school I was oblivious to the various cliques and clubs that media now reveal are so important to normal development. I didn’t even try to associate with others of my own kind; being largely unaware that they existed. I wasn’t unfriendly, nor anti-social; just clueless that such camaraderie was an option.
To the point: In my third year of college I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment in a six unit building, a few blocks from campus. The apartment door to the stairwell had 6 glass panes, that I obscured with various arty images, including a Xerox of my face peering through a curtain. Thus my neighbors knew who lived there by face, as well by the titanium name plate I’d attached to the dilapidated brass mailbox by the front door. My living room at this time contained just a low table (made from 14″ legs and a Formica sink cut-out scrap) and a table lamp. I had yet to scrounge chairs. Very sparse.
One evening I was sitting silently on the wood floor doing a series of sketches of a shoe for an art class assignment, when there was a knock on the door. This was curious, as I didn’t know anyone (besides my parents) who knew where I lived.
I opened the door, and there stood a slender woman of about my own age wearing just a bathrobe, and a towel around her head. She told me that she lived upstairs, and asked if I had a pair of scissors she could borrow. I went to go find my scissors as she explained that she and her roommate were going to spend the evening at home with a bottle of wine and cut each others hair.
I handed her these scissors, expecting her to just turn and leave. Instead, she smiled shyly and invited me to join them. What would you have done?
Not me. I was on a roll, drawing. I had no particular interest in watching a haircut, nor did I drink. I was also unaware of the “borrowing something from a neighbor” invitation gambit. I obliviously declined, and closed the door. In retrospect I can imagine the surprise and disappointment, and rejection she must have felt as she found herself standing with dinky scissors in the empty hallway.
No excuse: I was neither a virgin, nor in a relationship at the time. Had my social mind been awake, I’d not have missed this or many other such lost potential Penthouse moments surrounding my college years. It was only after I finally awakened in my thirties that poignant memories (such as this) bubble out of my subconscious mind, and haunt me. I’m actually bothered more by the realization of the disappointment I’ve caused in others than by what I missed. I’m sure that all the others involved had quickly put my unintentional rejections behind them. But my memory clings to my mistakes.
This episode is one of those of which I am sharply aware. The more incisive my self flagellation because I daily see a token from the moment: This simple pair of scissors.