CityI drew everything I bought for a year
From coffee to scabies medication, I drew everything.
When I was twenty-one, I decided I hadn’t been drawing enough. I was going to draw a picture of everything I bought for the whole year, ending on my twenty-third birthday. I thought it would be a good lens to capture my life for a year. More importantly, I knew that the project would be inescapable: From coffee to scabies medication, I drew everything.
When I was finished, I put the journals in a bag on a high shelf and promptly forgot about them. I didn’t reopen my time capsules until this month. Just far enough away that I thought, maybe they’re cute and interesting and someone would want to read them. Ten pages in, I didn’t even want to read it.
Four years ago, I was a gross little punk living with my best friends in Bushwick (we got priced out of our apartment in the second half of the book). I’d started going back to college again after dropping out at 19. I discovered that getting good grades was the easiest job I’d ever have and spent the rest of my time drinking and dumpstering.
Elias Poland is just your average gay transsexual trying to make it work in Brooklyn. He likes sewing, cooking, and hoping someday people will tire of moving here. You can see some more of his work at EliasPoland.com.
At the time, I was considering transitioning, and hoped I’d be able to draw my first vial of testosterone before the year was up. I didn’t make it, so the year includes more tampons than needles. Four days into the journal, I met the person I would find myself dating for the remainder of the year and never once let them buy me dinner.
Predictably, I made purchases at a number of places twenty-six year old me would be hard-pressed to recreate. The Dominican restaurant around the corner, where I bought too many lunches has been replaced. Pearl Paint, where I bought my pens, markers, and the journals themselves, is gone.
I suppose the nature of a time capsule is not so much to look at the past, but to throw the present into relief by comparison. I’ve moved twice, changed my name, and decided I was gay again, this time for men. I stopped buying illegal prescriptions, getting my food out of the trash, and graduated from college.
To the twenty-two year old me, ethical consumption meant buying as little as possible, buying it in Bushwick, and not troubling myself with the fact that my mother paid most of my rent.
At twenty-six, I wonder if I’ll ever make enough money to avoid getting bumped right out of the city to Philadelphia. When the journal ended, I was gearing up and hopeful for an illustrious, or at least profitable, career in the arts. This year’s journal would show me buying textbooks for nursing school. Perhaps the best part of getting the journal down from the shelf is that the annoyance at twenty-two means something has changed.
I’m pretty sure that I’m happier now.