My brother just moved into the one-bedroom apartment my mom and I share. We’re large, Scandinavian people; when we walk together down the street, people stare as though at three tall white trolls. But for the next month, we’ll share this apartment. Why?
Last month my brother packed half his belongings into a tiny U-haul trailer my dad hitched to his truck and drove across the country, with my brother’s cat. We kept the family cat, Baby Kitty, who was far more likely to either kill my dad en route, or drive him mad with constant whining, leading to a crash in Wyoming and expensive medical bills. My brother liquidated the rest of his belongings via Craigslist and his store, he and my mom loaded his keepings into black garbage bags and suitcases, and wheeled and taxi’d them to our apartment.
I set up my bedroom like my brother and I used to arrange as kids playing with Little People, with matching “big size” beds of red plastic and a dresser on wobbly injection-molded legs against a door imagined onto the carpet. My mom’s spent the past several days replacing our kitchenware with his, most of which used to be mine and hers. The rabbit cowers in a corner, waiting for the memo that reads “No more new people, animals or furniture will be stuffed into this apartment for the next ninety days. Regards, The Management.”
Overwhelmed with claustrophobia, I barely evaded panic yesterday. I closed myself in this bedroom, clutching my stuffed hummingbird and petting Baby Kitty, staring at the two beds set against the wall. Uke found me online and rescued me from an abysmal state of mind by reminding me that even the weirdest situation can be improved somehow. She suggested tents and Austin, Texas, but I think it’s the concept that matters more than the specifics, if only because my mom and brother will laugh at me if I set up a tent in the bedroom.
She also tried to open my eyes to the possibility of finding happiness in Suckallo, suggesting I wander off somewhere without my iPod and seek adventure. I immediately performed the chatting equivalent of a scoff, wondering if she thought I was exaggerating my descriptions of the rampant lunacy and poverty in this town, or making it up altogether. I wanted to ask, “Have you seen the people who ride the buses here?!”
But her words had their subtle, rain-like effect on my thoughts as I staggered around the bedroom at 6:45 this morning, dressing for a conference the arty nonprofit I work for was putting on. I hadn’t received any clear direction yesterday about my duties, but I felt sure I could rely on the event to provide eight to nine hours of bad hair styles, royal blue pantsuits, and adults using Crayola markers without irony. I was already wincing in preparation, but reminded myself it “couldn’t be that bad,” that “nothing was expected of me,” and that “it could surprise you.”
I’d been inside Ani DiFranco’s Babeville for about forty-five minutes, taping “Sign-In A-M” signs to the walls, when I remembered how fun events like this are. My dad’s worked in the motorcycle industry my entire life, and I’ve worked seven or eight trade shows since I was in grade school, handing out brochures or collecting dirty dishes. Ordinarily recalcitrant in group settings, and hesitant to talk to strangers in any setting, I’m bizarrely comfortable at a large event. Maybe it’s from seeing my dad handle the same with such ease all my life. Whether the focus of the event is developmentally disabled children, or Ducati motorcycles, facilitating requires good cheer, organization, and energy: qualities I happily provide at work, if not at home.
The lunch was delicious, I enjoyed Gayle Danley’s slam poetry performance, heard some interesting gossip from a coworker I’d never had the chance to talk with before, discussed the glories of over-achievement with the board president, Sharpie-doodled (I call it slam doodling) and most rewarding of all, received several compliments on my hair. I walked home through the fog and homeward bound traffic, reached the outside door to our apartment, and as I unlocked it, thought, “No one is home right now. Shoot.”
One of my old bosses, who attended AA meetings every morning before work, would tell me when I had a bad day, “Hey. This too shall pass.” The crowded spaces, and the empty ones, the bad haircuts, and the good ones, the Little People, and the Big People, the shows, and the offices: life flows freely. All I can do is put on a polka-dotted bathing suit and jump in.