Author of the column, Julianna Mitchell. Photo by Jennifer Losch.

I wear a total of eight bracelets on my wrists: three on my left and five on my right.

I can tell you where I got each of them. Better yet, I can tell you why I got each of them. For me, my bracelets are a sort of time capsule: a memory museum I can bring with me everywhere. I can look down at my wrists throughout the day and remember so many wonderful memories: trips to Joshua Tree and the farmer’s market, my boyfriend (Jake), Old Towne San Diego with my family, and the time a strange lady in Washington D.C. came up to me and said “lucky lucky!” while sliding a black beaded bracelet over my hand when I was 14. I commemorate experiences–and people– with tangible pieces of string that I tie around my wrists.

In a drawer in my closet, there are 23 more bracelets. Some made with thread, others beaded, some with metal, and a few are made of leather.

I used to wear ten bracelets on my wrists: five on my left and five on my right.

Whenever I look at my collection of 31 bracelets, there’s always two that stick out to me: first, a worn, bright red, plastic-beaded string bracelet with a tiny, abstract, white eye in the center. I feel like it stares at me. There’s another one just like it in some forgotten space in a closet somewhere in Los Angeles. And there was one more: it fell to pieces in a freshman dorm room. Fixing it never even crossed the owner’s mind.

And yet, here I am, still holding onto it. Holding onto them. What does that say about me?

The other bracelet is newer, but still smells strongly of the Pacific Ocean. It’s made of leather and twine and is thickly braided. Not my usual style, but I often compromise for the sake of a memory. Especially if I think it’s important. And, at the time, I thought this memory was important.

All of Julianna’s bracelets on display, at least the ones she still wears. Photo by Abigail Haralson.

I’ll spare you the details of the sunny September day I spent in Huntington Beach: the overpriced grilled cheeses we hid from seagulls, how cold the water was (and how much we didn’t care), and a stuffed car filled with kind-of-drunk, laughing 19 year olds and the boom of shitty trap music. Let’s just say that, at the time, it was the happiest day of my life. And I spent it with people that I thought were going to spend many more beach days by my side, filling up the spaces on my wrists with more memories and braided twine.

There’s no other bracelets like it on any wrists that I know. No trace of memories, of me, on the 5 other right wrists with me that day (or the lefts, too). I guess that should’ve been my first sign to keep the 10 dollars and keep my cards close to my chest, rather than using my grocery money at the surf shack for a bracelet that would last on my wrist for two more months. And people that would last even shorter.

Again, what does that say about me?

It’s funny. The memories would pass and the people would leave (I still have a bad taste in my mouth, mind you), but here I was, rationalizing relationships over pieces of string. As if memories make up for the hurt. As if bracelets could make people stay.

Sometimes, life has a way of untying bracelets from your wrist and placing them in your drawer, never to be worn again. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

You would never think it by looking at the other bracelets in my collection, but I miss wearing these two bracelets, just as much as I miss the people I bought them with: the sea-salt smiles, spontaneous drives to Balboa Island, the naivety I possessed as a Pittsburgh-raised, Californian transplant. Friends that I thought were forever, shoved to the back of a drawer in my closet.

I wonder if buying bracelets is cursed: if as soon as I exchange my grocery money for a tangible memory, the people would suddenly disappear.

Maybe I should stop buying them all-together (they weigh down my wrists anyway). Maybe I should throw them out and replace them with new bracelets. Maybe I should go on more adventures to fill up the memory card I have plugged into my brain and, in turn, the empty spaces on my wrists.

Or maybe I should look at them, smile, and put them away. After all, I did spend grocery money on them.

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