I’m supposed to be getting rid of things in preparation for my departure to Madrid later this summer — like the Bianchi road bike I sold last Friday.
Instead, I’m in a furniture store — Artist Date 108.
I’ve passed by here hundreds of times. Today there is a sign in the window pointing to a new entrance. It feels like an invitation.
Inside it is crammed with a collection of furniture sourced from India, Indonesia and other faraway places. Red bookshelves. Green sideboards. A tall chest with tiny drawers — like a library card-catalog file — each painted a different color, each begging to be filled with a special treasure.
A real desk. A weathered armoire. A butcher block on wheels — the one I never got around to buying for my kitchen.
I think of a friend who recently commented that my apartment — while inviting and well-appointed — has a sense about it that implies I never planned on staying.
Perhaps he sees the empty spaces on the futon where pillows and a throw might go. The missing bedside table. The crappy knives.
He does not mention any of these things, but I see them — reminders that I never entirely put down roots.
Or perhaps he sees the table made of suitcases stacked on their sides. The snowshoes tacked to the entryway wall. The hung pieces of fabric I collected in Rwanda. A traveler’s accoutrements.
I think of all the places I’ve lived and what made each one mine.
The Indian cotton blanket and Picasso print I bought at Cost Plus World Market to dress up my dorm room.
The Morticia Addams-style wicker chair I found at a yard sale in the Castro and carried to my apartment in Haight-Ashbury. The yellow walls in the great room of that apartment, painted with my roommate Tim in the wee hours of the morning. The scratched parsons table and chipped black bookshelves gifted to me from the As IS room at Crate and Barrel.
The mezzuzah my friend Pam gave me when I left Chicago, and that I tacked to the doorway in Seattle as soon as I arrived.
Each like a fingerprint, identifying my space.
Much of what fills my current apartment was gifted to me. Two wooden chests of drawers that had been taking up space in my friend Patrick’s storage unit — delivered on my birthday. I sobbed putting away my socks for the first time — overwhelmed and grateful to finally have a place to store them. The dining-room table my friend Tom made from a door. The lamp that was Mimi’s.
Each object has a story. I mention this to my friend — the one who says my apartment has the feeling of being inhabited by one who isn’t planning to stay.
“Somehow I knew that,” he replies.
He reminisces about traveling through India, China and the former Soviet Union — decorating rooms he would keep for just a month or two with postcards, fabric and fragrant bars of soap purchased in the market.
“You will do the same,” he reminds me.
He is right.
The idea is a comfort as I prepare to move overseas with two large suitcases and two carry-ons; my plan being to find a room already outfitted with a bed and a chest of drawers –space within a place someone else calls home.
I trust I will find it. That I will find room within a room to call my own. And that that which is mine will come to me once more, dressing up the empty spaces. A train map. A rock. A card from a lover.
A tattered copy of Tropic of Capricorn. A packet of seeds.
Each with a story I will share with that friend…and that I will share with new friends. Each a fingerprint, marking my place in the world.