the perfect bowl of porridge

I read Bee Season by Myla Goldberg a few years back right before the movie came out.  I really looked forward to this one scene from the book.  The mother in the story had a broken past; her parents were killed in a car accident.  As a result of this broken past, she would wander around and steal things.  Nothing in particular, nothing she would ever use, just little objects.  Those objects wound up in a storage locker.  She meticulously placed the stolen objects into a pattern.  There were objects of all sorts – a left shoe, an ash tray, a glass – arranged in a way where everything fit together, everything had a place, every shard of her broken past was rescued and brought to this storage locker and pieced back together into a work of art.  I was amazed at the description of this scene because I was comforted by its beauty and “wholeness” just as much as the mother must have been.  I felt like if I had her past, I would do the same thing and there would be nothing wrong with that.  Remember how in Silence of the Lambs Clarice found comfort sitting by the dryers in the laundry room?  I imagined it felt like that every time the mother placed a new object into her storage locker.

Of course the movie didn’t do it justice.  The viewer walked away thinking the mother was just a bit cooky because the depth of meaning was completely lost.  I hate slightly off scenes in movies.  Children of Men had a great scene in the book where women strolled around with porcelain dolls pretending they were real children to fill the void of not being able to get pregnant.  People would stop to coo over their porcelain babies.  At one point someone stopped to admire the doll, congratulate the mother, picked up the doll and smashed it to the ground.  I thought that would be a fabulous scene in the movie just for the look of shock from the pseudo-mother.  Alas, nothing in the movie, even though it was a great movie otherwise.

Anyway, my first apartment by myself was when I moved out of San Francisco to Walnut Creek.  It was 429 square feet of space.  I bought a day bed and a bunch of cheap shelving for the closet from Target.  I had one closet that was literally in the bathroom in which to store linens, clothes, Christmas decorations, and anything else that finds itself stored in a closet.  It took me a few months to settle in and feel comfortable.  On the weekends, I never really wanted to be alone.  It felt odd to stay in a studio apartment all day.  However, after getting through the winter and early spring gloom, I had bought enough furniture to arrange everything just so.  I cooked dinner for myself and cleaned all my dishes right afterward so nothing cluttered up the shallow sink.  I had all my laundry organized and my clothes arranged impressively in such little space.  Linens and towels were stored in the drawers beneath the daybed.  Exercise equipment in the basket under the shelf.  The bed would be made a certain way each morning to look more like a couch rather than where I slept.  I loved that apartment.  Everything had a place.  On weekends I would clean every corner and relax on my balcony comforted by the perfection of my abode.

During our awful break up, boy snuck into my apartment and took all the pictures of the 2 of us out of my picture frames.  I don’t think there was anything worse he could have done.  Each frame was eerily empty and it felt like he was trying to steal part of my life from me.  I remember having such anxiety that whole night – I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think, I felt completely numb.  When I got the pictures back I returned each one to its frame, but I felt so violated.  After that incident I didn’t want to live there anymore.  I rushed to leave and ended up in a place I hated and never quite settled into.

People have asked lately how the living with boy situation has been.  It has been good.  Not having to shuffle back and forth from Berkeley to Oakland after work and then again after class has freed up so much time.  I love staying at home on the weekends, making coffee, Sunday pancakes, Monday pasta night, and finding Jack curled up in a new sleeping nook relaxed and happy.  We had guests stay in our 2nd bedroom last weekend and they had a bed to sleep in, not an air mattress on the floor.  We’ve hosted more brunches and dinners than we have ever done in the past.  We’ve had friends sit around our dining table instead of just the two of us never using it.

It’s my opportunity to settle again, return to the bliss of everything in its place.  But sometimes I can work myself into a sense of panic over the couch not fitting quite right in the living room and the bedroom not having the right shades to make it feel light and comfy.  Clutter still hides in corners.  My pictures of family that comfort me so much don’t have a home yet.  Walls in one room are bare, walls in another room are cluttered.  I stare at the pile of paper bags wondering who stuck that bag in there without folding it completely flat.

I take walks around the neighborhood with Jack looking into every home.  I try and see around to the back, what kind of a back yard they have.  I imagine which home I would choose to live in and how I would fill the space.  Light colors, lots of sun light, not too many things on the walls.  I take a mental picture and put in my pocket.  I bring it up again while lying in bed waiting for sleep or before tackling physics homework.

I wonder if this is what Goldilocks did.  If going to the bears’ house was just her dream right before falling asleep at night.  The place she could go to and find everything just right.

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2 Comments

Filed under Life, Uncategorized

2 responses to “the perfect bowl of porridge

  1. codee

    Funny how sometimes the ability to put everything in its place in a tiny little apartment makes everything else in life feel just right! A seriously lovely bit of writing, Al.

  2. Richard

    …I will have to second that first comment.

    You certainly make writing look so simple to do. (…and the title.)

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