Well, something’s going on because the helicopter is circling like a mosquito. When it passes overhead, the desk rumbles a little. I hear sirens. We moved from downtown a month ago, where helicopters and sirens were three square a day, but somehow, in this even slightly more suburban setting, it feels more dangerous. C says it feels more territorial here, and I guess I know what he means.
When I first moved downtown, it was fresh on the heels of separation from a man I’d been married to for nearly a decade. Downtown was the blank canvas for a lot of residents, and I came armed with brushes of all sizes and buckets of violently bright paint. I also had a stack of coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond, and I can now describe, with perfect clarity, what the Beyond contains.
Lint rollers. Lots and lots of lint rollers.
The loft I moved into was the sixth place I looked at that day, and the minute I walked in, I knew it was perfect. Concrete from top to bottom, rebar jutting out of the ceiling, exposed brick – pretty much the domicile incarnation of how I was feeling. I wanted wherever I lived to be a giant fuck you to every ounce of false domesticity and marital entrapment I’d become so painfully aware of. Just the whiff of wall-to-wall carpet made me gag. Here was the place where I could stomp my feet and rail my fists and no one would hear.
A few months later, awash in the wake of a toxic lover, I stopped my incessant pacing and let out a primordial scream. The next day, my neighbor across the hall inquired if I had yelled the night before. Okay, so THAT was heard.
But otherwise, it was the most perfect, most indestructible womb. The light flew in each morning and branded huge squares of gold on the grooved floors. With the windows thrown open you heard the honking, the cat calls, the arguments, the lovers. I hung twinkly lights from the exposed plumbing on the ceiling, spread my bedding decadently on the floor, and crawled out on the little ledge by the window, perching and rocking with happiness. I pushed the furniture around, used all the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons, and bought uncharacteristically dark towels. Everything, everything I put in this place, was what I wanted. I bought nothing because it was simply practical. If it didn’t please me visually, I discarded the idea immediately. It was an exercise in guilt-free, indulgent consumerism, and it was fantastic.
There were nights when I stalked the walls, wringing my melodrama, aching with grief and frustration and self-hatred; but still, the quiet items I’d so carefully chosen to fill the space around me seemed to pulse with comfort. The orange canister filled with wooden spoons. The huge metal letters I’d dug through a junkyard to retrieve. The antique, upright, gently gleaming piano that I’d paid cash and a piece of my old soul for. We chose you, too, they hummed. You rock.
Sometimes, when I realized how over my marriage was, or the lover wasn’t answering his phone, or I wanted desperately to talk to my gone-to-the-beyond mother, the concrete closed in like a tomb, literally bent in, folded, angled toward me in threats. So I’d creep over to the wooden spoons and place each one carefully on the counter, lining them up like a fence. Keep out. Warning – Dog. Electric shock. The wooden spoons felt basic and traceable – I could imagine where they came from. Unlike me, who was floating in a cesspool of her own making. Detritus.
Eventually, the loft gained its own momentum, began to breathe of its own accord. No thanks to me – I still gripped the walls some nights. But the lungs of the place wanted to expand, and I found that if I loosened my grip, even for moments, the rise and fall, the ebb, it happened without my permission. In spite of me, home was evolving.
When my now husband first walked into the loft, he looked up, took a deep breath and exclaimed.
Inspiration is the act of breathing in.