Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Smallness

Slightly small-- what am I saying?-- I live in a shoebox and my life resembles its container.

There are phantom-figures here, the what-might-have-beens of past lives that flicker by in the darkness that pools in shadows beyond my lamp’s reach.   Don’t be morose, my mom would say, if she was here, so I’ll focus on the things that can be seen in the dying lightbulb’s light. The light. The what-is. Not the what’s -not.

A chair, colored fire engine red before a black desk. Two drawers filled with scotch tape, stray staples, a tangle of cords and a near-empty checkbook. There’s a beige love seat-- one and a half people wide that’s set at a diagonal facing a television whose conception pre-dated the digital age by a solid decade that is never used. Stacks of books piled into bookcases that form an “L” corralling the space I prefer to think of as the living room. The bed, the dresser, the rod where I hang the rest of the clothes- that’s invisible now, all cast in shadow by the bookshelf in front of it. 

I know, though, that cracks of light peek through, like little dappled stars between the bent spines and pages of the books I’ve read again and again.  In the kitchen-- or the cupboard, anyway- rest mismatched china from sets my parents had when married, then divorced. Mugs don’t match, either. One from Las Vegas. Two for Christmas that get used at all times of the year.Coffee maker that works half the time, and a wine opener that dangles from a naked nail on the wall. A cat who occupies the red chair when I’m not sitting on it. 

A single life, I might call it.  

I live in a room that stands alone, apart, unattached from other rooms. It’s an unusual  thing, to live in an unattached room. Studio apartments are part of an apartment building, after all. Studios are rooms attached to hallways, stacked on top ( or below) of other rooms and hallways.

Houses are conglomerates of rooms. Some configured around the living room, the room of a life, presented when guests happen by. Family-rooms, kitchens and mud-rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and closets. All these rooms that have a structural attachment. The roof would fall down if one room were removed at random. A gaping hole would let the rain and snow, the wind, the sun-- the elements homes hide us from. The structure would eventually crumple, weakened without that cavity within which we place the stuffs of life.  Furniture. Books. Towels. Our bodies.

It fits together: Lives and rooms.

When you have one room, these rules just don’t apply. 

And so, I wonder: what is a room that is just a room, all on its own? And what does that say about my life?

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