Rooms

 

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I.

 

The room is in an attic. The room starts with a bed. The room is mostly a bed, though the room is big enough to ballroom-dance in, to foxtrot or tango or swing in a close hold. The bed is the emotional center; it is the heart of the room.

 

The bed is set on a series of wooden slats on the floor. The floor is painted light blue and tracked with the waltz of innumerable pairs of wet boots and dirty shoes. The bed is below the windows, which look out onto the street. The bed faces the door. The bed is perfectly centered in the room, below its highest point, at which the roof slopes down symmetrically towards the north and the south, like a roof in a girl’s drawing of what a house should be.

 

Rain falls, storms blow; the crabapple tree outside brushes its branches against the windows. At night, the street below comes alive: streetlights sparkle yellow and the moon pours in between leaves. The room is never truly dark, which means it is always light.

 

Because the room is itself a ritual, a dream of a thing dreamt as carefully as it has been built, sitting at the pinnacle of a house like a house in a picture, the room hosts rituals. The dreamlike room is filled with dreams. Because the room is an ideal room, the girl in the room does the kinds of things that happen in rooms. Because the bed is an ideal bed, the girl in the bed does the kinds of things that happen in bed. Could anything else happen in a space so ideal?

 

The girl waltzes the waltz of the young and the full-at-heart. She tracks in leaves through the front door. She cries out the window. She slams the door. She writes her name on the inside of the closet. The girl draws dream-maps in her dream-room which has been writ large from the start and which will be writ large in her memory: the room that began everything, the room that will shape all rooms that follow, and the room by which she judges every place she will ever live.

 

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II.

 

I was always a little scared of my childhood bedroom. With the lights off, the darkness absolute, all senses briefly muffled—no sight, no sound; even my tongue went numb at the pitch-black that fell abruptly over my tiny bed. I’d step over piles of clothes and books in the dark, crawl under the covers, and stare at the ceiling, waiting for my eyes to adjust.

 

The tiniest bit of light came in through the two windows that looked onto the street. Two pine trees grew outside our house, so huge and old it would take two of me to embrace one, and not even at my littlest. The trees blocked out much of the moon and star and street-light that gives open fields their gloamy glow, leaving the pure and perfect darkness of a hotel room or grave.

 

Lying in bed, my mouth thick with night, I watched the light emerge from dark—the stippled brightness of the moon through the leaves painting itself on the ceiling, the shadows of the room coalescing around forms: chair, bookshelf, dresser. Yet even in this slowly growing brightness there was always a deeper dark somewhere, I learned, and on bad nights my mind raced through all the corners of the room. I created monsters where there were none: nightmarish phantasms of illness and death and things I imagined lurked in the dark.

 

In the room I came of age inside. The darkness and the quiet bred a secret private that let me dream of secret private things. In its gloom I twitched under fevered dreams, woke breathless from nightmares; fucked myself into a dizzy stupor in the middle of the day, the light illuminating weakly the newness that coated my fingers and my skin. It was a room of little light, of slow-burning discovery,; a dark and private sanctuary, framed to the north by twin pines.

 

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III.

 

As the bedroom is for looking inward, the studio is for looking outward. The studio's huge windows let light in. At night, the studio, lit from within, serves as both mirror and enabler of voyeurism. The studio offers a vantage point onto life and an impetus to document it. The studio receives the outside world and, after observation, its resident projects that vision out of it.

 

The studio is white. The whiteness of the studio both enables a fear and love of color. The studio is marked by blankness but also marred by the strokes and spills that have fractured its blankness, which make it feel livable and not sterile; which invite a first gesture. The studio is not, but often functions as a living space The studio hosts a red futon, a kettle, a bag of tangerines, a portable speaker. The studio has a sink, so it gives water. The studio consists of minimums in the hope of generating, from a collection of objects, a sum larger than its parts.

 

The studio serves as an intersection of places: the locus of creation, ambiguously private and public. The fixed point upon which a vision of the world is turned. The private-public space where breakdowns happen and tears are shed and dreams are had and sex is conjured, whether in actuality or as a construct.

 

One night in the studio the girl witnesses a pillow fight happening in the hotel across the street. Lights blazing, a room full of kids—no older than nineteen, any of them—jumping on a king-size bed, like a hedonistic scene out of a college movie. The girl presses her face to the window, trying to get a closer look. The bodies across the street look already abstracted, like figures on the television or in a photograph.

 

When the girl tries to sleep in the studio she often falls unconscious in an instant. When she wakes she is often confused by where she is and where she ought to be. The studio is not a home, but a portal.

 

The studio is impermanent. The studio must be cleaned, its contents emptied, space made for its next occupant.

 

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IV.

 

I make a map of my new apartment in my head. Five floors up, a door that sticks and has to be gently nudged open with a twist of the wrist. A narrow hallway, a room at the end, on the right, with two windows. Low ceilings, which slope, again, low enough to be touched with a hand. Blue-gold light from the north, dim even in the morning.

 

Everything in this room shimmers with possibility: the emptiness of it, the tiny expanse of hardwood floor, not yet tracked with steps, not criss-crossed with an emotional landscape I have yet to invent. The space resonates with potential. I think of the nights I will spend here, the days I will weep and the days that I won’t, the person I will bring home and introduce to this new place. I think of the bed I will build and all the memories it will hold. Already I am writing a new legend for this space.


It is a space halfway between reality and possibility, and until I begin to inhabit it, to bring in my furniture and my luggage, piece by piece, it will remain unreal: a place populated by dreams and idols and events I have yet to stage.

 


First published in Highway No. 1.

Highway No. 1 launches Oct 4, 2014, at FIELD Contemporary (Vancouver) and Oct 25, 2014 at The Plant (Montreal).