Boxes | Chapter 1: A New Box

Written by: Kevin Gatti

“MAKE IT FIT!” Carabelle’s mom yelled to her as she was trying to pack her stuff up in a box. Carabelle and her parents were in the process of moving. Her dad was changing the box he wore, which was the ultimate cause for the move. They lived in a society where everyone had to wear individual boxes with a label. The label indicated what you did for a living. Carabelle’s dad was changing his box from an architect labeled box to a teacher labeled box. The location of his new job is what made their move necessary. It was rare that someone would change their box. In fact, if you changed it too much you could risk getting a yellow box.

The yellow box came with the label of ‘undecided’ on it. This was for those who were unsure of what they wanted to do in life. Having this box was no honor. Many assumed that an individual with this box was extremely indecisive and spontaneous, which was not a good trait to have in this society.
Then there was the red box, which was worse than the yellow box. The red box had a label on it that said ‘looney.’ Most in this society would consider this box extremely undesirable. These individuals were outcasted and no one would want to bother with them or admit that they even knew them. The red box was given to those who moved beyond being undecided and openly defied the box system.

On the surface, Carabelle’s mom expressed that she wasn’t a fan of her dad changing boxes. She was a believer that when you grew up and picked a box that you kept that same box for life. Changing boxes mid-life was too reckless for her. Her mom used the frustration around packing up and moving as leverage towards her argument for never changing boxes.

Kids had boxes that were labeled ‘child’ and as they got older, they got a box that was labeled ‘student.’ Carabelle had a student labeled box at the time of their move. She was quickly approaching 18 and had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She was aware that she needed to make a decision soon or risk being put in a yellow box. However, none of this was a real concern to Carabelle. She spent the drive to her new home sitting in the back seat of her parent’s car pondering about all of the fun things she was going to do once she was in her new home. Her mom would glaze at her in the back seat wondering what Carabelle was thinking. Was Carabelle planning a life of being a nurse? Or maybe a secretary? Her mom was so full of pride just thinking about it. Little did she know, Carabelle was actually imagining herself painting in her new bedroom all day, every day. The problem with this was that painter or artist labeled boxes were not approved boxes. There were over five hundred approved boxes that this society had deemed appropriate. Anything art related was deemed a hobby you do on your free time and therefore not a suitable box.

Carabelle was a natural born leader and didn’t take no for an answer. She was rebel child growing up and never followed any rule book. She climbed things that she was never supposed to touch. She talked back and questioned teachers and authority regularly. Of course, all of this was mute to Carabelle’s mom who believed steadfastly that her own biggest fear would never happen to her daughter. That fear was life in a red box.

As the first evening approached in their new home, Carabelle’s mom sat with her legs crossed in her box by the door in the living room. It was dusk and light from the setting sun shined through the window into the naturally lit room forming a silhouette of Carabelle’s mom on the wall. She had a cigarette in one hand and her other hand on the newly hung curtains. She was peeking out the window awaiting her husband’s return home. He was getting his new box.

Carabelle’s mom often spoke to herself in the mirror as if she was someone else disciplining her for every little misstep in her life. It was like a display of her own inner criticism that she would only show when no one was around. She turned to mirror on the wall beside the window and said to herself, “Joyce, he’s doing this because of you. You weren’t good enough. You need to be a better housewife. You need to be much better!”
A car suddenly pulled into the small driveway next to the house. Carabelle’s mom just sat there continuing to smoke her cigarette. The door opened up and a dark figured entered the now mostly lightless room.

Carabelle’s mom looked up at the dark figure and said, “Are you happy now?”

The dark figure was Carabelle’s dad. He was confused by how dark the room was and asked back, “Why is it so dark in here?”

“We live on the edge of darkness now. I figured we should get used to it just in case someone decides to take that plunge and takes us all with them.” Carabelle’s mom said coldly.

“Don’t be like that. I should have been a teacher all along. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again. I promise.” Carabelle’s dad said sincerely.

Footsteps could then be heard coming down the stairs. It was Carabelle. “Why is it so dark down here?” She asked.

Carabelle’s father smiled softly at Carabelle. “Your mom is having a moment. We should leave her be.”

“Over what? Did she break a nail?” Carabelle said back loud enough for both her parents to hear.

“Now. Now. Let’s give your mom some space.” Carabelle’s dad said as he put his arm around Carabelle and walked her towards the kitchen.

Carabelle’s mom remained unphased by Carabelle’s comment. She wasn’t able to process it. Psychologically, she couldn’t handle the thought of her daughter going astray. Comments like this always went in one ear and out the other with no emotion expressed. Instead, she stared out the window with a blank look on her face and cigarette still in her hand.

In the kitchen, Carabelle turned to her dad and said, “These boxes are stupid. Why do we need to wear them anyway?”

“We wear them because everyone has a place in society, and everyone needs know that you’re in your place. I guess it kind of makes everyone feel safer when everyone knows where you belong.” Her dad answered back.

Carabelle looked at her dad seriously. “What if I don’t want to belong to anyone or anything?”

Her dad gave a stern look back. Carabelle thought for a moment that she might be in trouble for saying that. Then her dad started to chuckle. “That’s a good one, Carabelle. Don’t let you mom hear you make jokes like that. We’ll both probably be in trouble.”

Carabelle didn’t laugh with her dad, because she was serious. She had no desire to take part in what she saw was the madness that people lived in.
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