Pandora's box came up three times yesterday in completely different contexts and originally it was my thought to write about that, but it's actually a shitty myth so I don't know. The story I was planning to tell you is a story about a box, and for starters Pandora's box is not a box, it's a jar. Well the box in my story isn't such a fancy thing, I mean it's not a be-jeweled Waterhouse wonder, it's probably closer to a really nice box that you got a Christmas present in one year and then you re-use the box every year because waste not want not. Small tears of the original bright holiday paper are missing where the lid was taped closed and then the tape removed, but it's still perfectly serviceable. Yeah, that box. But I could switch that box out for a jar, sure, I'm not picky, box, jar, bottle, whatever, and I like staying true to the story even when the story isn't true. And the point of this story is not the box itself, but the lid. And whether it's a lid on a box or a jar doesn't matter: the point is, the lid is SUPPOSED to stay on. Lift the lid and all manner of bad things come out.
This too, a recurring and weird element. If you don't want her to open the box, why put on a removable cover. If you don't want her to open the door, why give her the key. If you don't want me to talk about this, why ask.
So the lid. On the box or the jar. In both containers, what is inside is a vortex of pain, I would prefer the word maelstrom except it turns out it's not from Latin but Dutch and therefore no more awesomely meaningful than whirlwind. In any case, swirling and danger and destruction. I'm thinking a jar is better, more conducive to swirling type action, so that's fine, good, we're going to talk about Pandora.
Except Pandora is sort of a combination dingbat and jerk. Created for the purpose of being so, the gift of cruelty and deceit. And this is not the story I want to tell you. So I will tell you a different one.
I will tell you this story of a woman who has a pithos full of pathos, a turmoil of tears, a welter of memory she carries with her everywhere. She has to carry it because she has to, it's part of the story, it's not that she'll die without it but she will cease to be herself, so here it is, tucked under her arm, and there's a lid and what she really wants to do is let the curse of carrying it be the only curse on her. Like most people cursed to carry a burden she wants to give it a good hard look sometimes, take the lid off and really peer inside and find out what's so darned heavy after all, but most of the time she knows better. "What's in the jar?" they ask and she says "Oh, it's nothing really, long boring story" and they go back to talking about themselves or politics or television which is fine. "What's in the jar, though?" asks another. They are standing at the seashore in the middle of a different myth, and for a stupid moment it seems like a good idea. She sits at the water's edge, coaxes the lid off, shows the contents, the damage, the story more true than works and days, watches their feet kick up plumes of sand as they retreat forever. Too much. She catches a cupful of tears and tops off the jar, fixes the lid back in place, the ocean lapping at her feet as warm and salty as blood.
Some days it's all she can think about. Some days she doesn't think about it at all. Some days or even weeks are taken up with thinking about how unfair it is that she has to carry this stupid jar and be weighted by it if she is silent and defined by it if she opens it. Some days she thinks about how strong she is from carrying it, how a curse that must be carried is borne; she likes wordplay and that makes her smile. Some days she passes other people carrying their own boxes or jars, some bulkier than hers, some heavier, some unbelievably fragile.
Pandora's box is really just a dumb origin story: Men suffer because women can't keep a lid on it. The truth is that everybody's got a jar of some size or another, and that inside of this one, if you're paying attention, you can find hope. That was what I wanted to tell you.