I have a long piece of plywood set up on three sawhorses.
I found a hardware/lumber store through the yellow pages not too far from the apartment and though I am not supposed to buy anything until I pay Geoffrey back, this desk seems so crucial I think it transcends the obligation temporarily.
I have pictured the desk here for months, ever since I knew I was coming back to this apartment. I knew this room with the dark salmon-colored walls and the parquet floors.
When I lived here before – or sort of lived here – this room had a large four-poster bed in it, a color TV at its foot and a nightstand for the ashtray. Geoffrey’s father, Arthur, spent his evenings after work lying on top of the bed, sitting up in his clothes, legs outstretched, smoking and watching TV.
Sometimes Geoffrey and I sat with him. Geoffrey liked his father, was always energetic and talkative with him. Arthur was a small, dapper man, who didn’t talk or emote much.
When I knew I was coming back I knew that Arthur didn’t live there anymore. “Please get ride of the four-poster bed,” I asked Geoffrey, “before I come,” because that room was going to be my room. Where I would write, and I saw the plywood desk I would set up under the windows.
“Really? It’s a beautiful bed,” Geoffrey said. We were talking by phone, me in London, he in the apartment he had never left. I loathed even the idea of that big elaborate bed that took up all the space in the room. I wanted the space to be almost empty, a studio.
We’d be living in the apartment together, crazy-in-love lovers, years older than the first time we had tried it.
And there had just been a Japanese girl living in the room with the four-poster bed, a Parsons student who had answered an ad, needing a room to rent, and she’d moved in and become his girlfriend, but he had asked her to leave because now I was coming, and though her name was still part of his everyday life, a name that kept coming up, he had asked her to go to make room for me and she, Geoffrey said, was happy to take the four-poster with her.
“Can you get me a futon?” I asked from London, imagining the clean light lines of thick cotton fabric and pale pine wood.
When I entered the room for the first time there it was – just the single futon bed with a navy blue cover and the long low chest of drawers that Arthur’s TV used to sit on.
I brought one oversize suitcase from my four years away. I unpacked the little gifts and mementos from London, knick knacks I’d collected, and laid them out purposefully across the surface of the bureau – the paperback of Whitman poetry Julian had given me for Christmas, the little black metal car from somewhere, the condom Lisa and I had bought from a vending machine the one time we went out to a pub.
I scattered these things across the surface so that I could appear as someone with a life, someone with friends, a woman not alone. I wanted Geoffrey to see these things and know that I had a lot that he was not part of. And it comforted me to think of the people I’d left behind, all of them who came to my going-away party. I liked looking at my collection of memorabilia.
I took the expensive mass-produced Paloma Picasso silver brooch from Tiffany’s that Geoffrey had sent me and pinned it to the navy blue cover of the futon where it looked very good.
Geoffrey had said I would need my own bed. The Japanese girl, though she usually slept with him in his room as I would, always had her own room, “so that it doesn’t just become routine,” he said, “so there’s somewhere else to go,” and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to manage this intricate dance that he and the Japanese girl had managed so effortlessly.
I bought the lumber and the sawhorses one afternoon when Geoffrey wasn’t home. I had to. That’s what the space underneath the windows was for.