When my brother and I were little, we used to play this game in the afternoons sometimes. My brother would sit on one side of the bed and I would sit on the other and we would imagine that the bed was a boat and that we were floating away on the ocean. We would imagine that the space in the middle was one where we would keep all our prized possessions. My brother would keep his tools and I would pat the bed and say, “This is where I’ll store all my boiled eggs.”
Aside from the fact that this showed how much I loved eggs, rationed in the hot, humid climate I lived in, they represented almost all the worldly possessions I cared to keep. The bounded space, in the middle of the bed, where a small spot was reserved for me to keep my hard-boiled eggs seemed like the one fixed place of certainty in the vast, boundless, directionless ocean we were floating in.
In another game I played by myself, I put two wide-backed garden chairs next to each other with their backs facing one another. I’d put a bedsheet over the backs to make a sort of covered tunnel between them and crawl inside. I loved to sit within this space even though it was a pretty unstable arrangement (unlike the tents one can buy now at stores for children). It was a room of my own, one I didn’t have, a place to call my own, bounded, finite and closed. Later, I’d come out and go somewhere and expect my “room” to be there when I returned and of course it wasn’t. Some helpful person who liked orderly arrangements (usually my mother) would have folded the sheet up and put the chairs back in their place.
I’ve had rooms of my own since then, ones that were completely my own, ones that I arranged from scratch in my own disorderly way. I’ve lived in my room with books strewn on the floor wall-to-wall so that you’d have to jump from spot to spot like a highly trained ballet dancer and I’ve lived in my room right after I’ve cleaned it so I could smell the warm carpet in the air and see the vacuum tracks on the floor. I’ve lived in my room with friends having to sit upright all night on the carpet (there were so many of them) chatting about Fanon and Deleuze over cups of tea and coffee while I knew all were hungry and all were wondering if there was something in the fridge downstairs for anyone at that late hour of the night.
But mostly, in my mind’s eye, when I remember the room of my own, I imagine the moment when the door is closed and no one is inside but me. I see my pink sheets, my brass lamps, the stain on the carpet and the dirty plate with the remnants of chips and salsa left on the dresser (where it shouldn’t have been) and my scrunchies poking out of the back of the bed (when I was looking for them all day) and I am at a space where I am at peace with myself.
These days, I live with a lot of people. Not only are people coming in and out of rooms at all times but people ring the bell and come in at all hours of the day and the voices of people next door are heard over the din in the house. I live in a place that’s infinite in its finiteness, one space merging onto the next while one person’s space is constantly altered by another’s, chairs, tables, cups, plates, couches and beds playing musical chairs all day.
Yet, when I close my eyes I see my closed door, my pink sheets, my French windows, the cherry tree in the backyard and the sound of the sprinklers go off in my ears.
I sit with myself then and have a cup of tea in my room, perched on the edge of my bed, crumpling my pink sheets with my free hand a little, feeling their flannel texture for a bit.
It is then that I feel like I am back in my bounded space, with the books on the floor, the scrunchies behind the bed, the plate on the dresser and the tea cup on the table.
It is then that I know that I am in my fixed place of certainty, in the company of the one person I’ve known all my life who, flawed as she is, will be with me always. She will hold my hand for the rest of my life in my journey through this boundless ocean. It is then that I know that I must love and respect her for who she is and value this space I have with her for who knows how long this game will last until someone folds the sheets up and puts the props back in their place where they belong.