Think about your furniture.

Your first coffee table was made from a pair of milk crates you found lying on the curbside one trash night. You brought them home, dusted them off, and propped them in front of a mangy easy chair, and they were good for holding coffee, unread mail, tired feet, the TV remote control.

Later, you made a bookshelf out of those same milk crates.

You had a bureau of drawers made out of plastic, sold by a company better known for its trashcans and dustpans. At some point you upgraded to Ikeaware, semi-disposable pinewood furniture.

This was adequate, and more, too: it offered, if not permanence, at least substance.

Gradually, pine gave way to ash and birch; the furniture took on more mass, became weightier, harder to move, harder to throw away. After the passage of no small amount of time, you saved up a little money and eventually spent some of it on a “piece”—when furniture is nice enough, it's called a “piece.” You like this piece; you feel an affinity for it that is almost fetishistic. You know in your heart there is nothing categorically different between the piece, the hand-carved antique oak coffee table, and those milk crates: they're equally good at holding coffee, mail, tired feet. But the point is, over time, you managed to acquire some things that speak to you, things that make your life just a little bit better, things that appropriately express who you think you are.

Then you move to another city and leave all of your furniture behind.

You realize that furniture is a metaphor for everything else in your life you’ve left behind—restaurants you like, parks, grocery stores, radio stations, friends, lovers. Unexpectedly, you find yourself combing the streets on a trash night, looking for milk crates, and thinking about time, and thinking about time . . .  

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