Sunday, August 13, 2006


An old boyfriend once expatiated, "Why is it that girls are always working on their little nests, and they have to have everything in order in their homes before they can do anything else? Dudes just put their shit wherever they want and get on with it, but girls spend so much more time moving things around until they're happy." It was this same person who, I'd calculate, spent as much time making his surroundings look as haphazardly, hip-ly, carelessly artsy and askew as I ever did bringing some semblance of order to my own.

But he was right. I move things around a lot. It's a way of circling the perfect patch of shade before lying down in it.

I'm a very sensitive person. The word "affected" has been used to describe me more than once. I get sick easily, I'm practically allergic to myself, and while I could always fall asleep if my homework was left unfinished, I could never drift off if the hall light was coming under my door or if I could hear someone typing on a computer in another part of the house, even faintly. Whether it's actual disturbances that keep me up, or the fixation on the fact that it might be a disturbance, that's up for debate.

It's in my Virgo nature to be concerned how other people leave their things, maintain appropriate volume, arrange their homes, clean their messes, are considerate to others; less so to perfect my own behavior at such tasks. I do try to be a considerate person, and not a hypocrite; however, such behavior has been a headache for roommates, I know, as Kim is almost too polite to attest. Others have been more outspoken.

My nest is never to my satisfaction, and the construction is never over. There have been less-happy points in my life where I've worried that perhaps too much of my energy, attention, artistry, is going toward how my bedroom is arranged, or how the things in my life are ordered. I fear the inner housewife; the archetypical woman whose aspirations end with having good taste in window dressings, rugs, and wall color.

But sometimes I just find it so deliciously satisfying to have my things just right.

There's peace in it; it's the most personal of personal maintenance, the stuff that doesn't really move you forward in life but that you have to stop and do just the same - like clipping your toenails, buying new clothes, cutting your hair. "Working on my apartment" sounds like a chore, and I use the words often; but I take as much pleasure in it as some do "cooking dinner" - you gotta eat, but some (not I) dive right on in and make it an art, or at least an adventure.

Also, I believe when you live in a place long enough, things about you seep into the walls, and stay behind long after you pack up and clear out. I remember being a student in Florence and loving my bedroom there with the wooden shutters, the thin red blankets, the parquet floors, but in the impending finality of the semester I decided not to get attached like I usually do, not to invest in its improvement or do anything more than unpack my clothes into the dresser. But over six months, I slept there every night, cried there when something was wrong or I was lonely, paced the floor, talked on the phone, and, you know, all the other things people do in their rooms. When I left I wished I could take all that somehow, in an album, in a song, something.

Other houses have been too painful to ever want to see again; I remember one house like that.

Why are the physical places where I live so influential for me?

It's like they have a personality outside of me; another person to know and love and hate and leave.

One of the last songs I wrote was called In a Rented Room. It goes like this.

In a rented room
where nobody’s home
there are shadows thrown
when no one’s standing there

don’t feel too at home
you won’t be here long
This is just a room
where you can lay your head

Do not learn the way
all the streetlights play
and the moon across your bed
keeps you up for hours

Someone else’s clothes
will be here next year
after you have gone away
to who knows where

Everybody knows
in a rented room
how your hair may grow
and lines may find your eyes

how the mirror holds
temporary lives
how the trees that line the street
settle in your mind

If you cry at night
keep it soft and low
all the echoes in the dark
never fade away

When the time has come
take your pictures down
and pretend that you
can leave an empty room


rachel said...

Aw, Jess, what a beautiful post! I remember that song. That was on your Sad Songs 2005 Mix...the pictures look great. I especially love the one with the red boots next to the plant--great color.

unrelated: how come we can only see one post at a time now?

Asher said...

I really feel the same way about space, which is odd, considering how much of nut-job crazy slob I can be. Much like olfactory memory, spaces can conjure up emotions, memories and alternate realities for me. Much like you, there are places that I can go that will instantly relieve all stress and pain, and some that revive feelings long since buried.