15 January, 2008 by Miranda Ward
Minus the foot-long stapler that belongs to George-the-poet-who-lived-here-in-the-fall, the things in our lounge are pretty good representations of us: the still shot from a Fellini film, Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini himself holding up an umbrella that threatens to but doesn’t quite blow away; Tim Curry, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, comfortable–no, downright charged with sex–in drag, painted lips plumped round a cigarette; and Samuel Beckett looking faded and chiseled, eyeing the camera sideways, sultry. All in black and white.
Oh. And lots of books. I mean lots of books and they aren’t even all the ones we own. Mine are the ones that have followed me from California to Boston to here. I spent over $800 sending them here and it never occurred to me that this was a luxury expense. It was money I had to pay, because, well–where would I be if I didn’t have weird histories of the British colonization of Kenya and the Almanac of American Politics to flip through late at night someday when the urge (which has yet to strike) finally comes? Old favourites, too. You never know what book you will need and when. I have many more in California and I tell you, I miss them. He has books too. Lots and lots and lots (he did used to be a bookseller but mostly I think it is like me: a security blanket for the nerdy adult).
Our books don’t all fit on the shelves, so they are also in the kitchen, the guest room, our bedroom, and the bathroom. They are on shelves and in piles; perched on mantles, tables, the trunks that serve as coffee tables in the lunge, the wooden board that serves as a spicerack in the kitchen.
We’re a little baffled by George’s stapler, not because we don’t see the point of having such a thing but because of its size: absurd. A Dada-ist office appliance. But maybe I think it’s because we can’t lose something that big, not even in a house so full of words you have to swim through them just to get to bed, just to hang the laundry up. Not like other things we’ve lost here. A brown dress, once. Then a ring, which I thought was
important but wasn’t in the end, from the island John Fowles based his Phraxos on. I thought it meant a lot to me but I was surprised to find that a day after losing it, I no longer minded. What turned out to be more important was being somewhere so happy that losing a thing, whose value had been attributed only arbitrarily by me anyway, didn’t seem very important. That’s what was important.
Other things in our lounge are more obvious, like the suede and sheepskin blanket that keeps us warm during naps, and the pokers and the steel bucket beside the fireplace, and the firewood. It is winter, after all. And one evening, we are sitting on the couch, sharing some champagne that George-the-Poet kindly left for us when he moved out, eating pizza and watching Sideways, when Xander suddenly pauses the film and sits up straight and said “shhhh.” S0 we listen, and a woman’s lusty voice is coursing down the street, French and brazen.
“It’s George,” Xander whispers. “It has to be, no one else would be playing Edith Piaf that loudly,” because a few days before we had driven through town out to the Rose and Crown with George and the whole way he had played her, and the sheer volume of those magnificent vocals filled the car and made it–not crowded, exactly (though it’s a very small car)–cozy. And sure enough, he is suddenly on our doorstep, just saying hello, he has a quick question, he was passing by–something, but I’m only half-listening because I can’t even get up to greet him because underneath the blanket I have shed my jeans (I’m about to eat half of a very large pizza, remember). So I wait until they go back outside and I find my jeans and pop out to join them.