In spite of having a four-and-a-half room apartment, in 2012 M and I had distilled much of our living existence to one room: the bedroom. Around the same time, I discovered Xavier de Maistre and his book Voyage autour de ma chambre. I promptly downloaded the English translation from Google books (as my French is, alas, not what I’d like to convince myself it was). Delighted that our cocooning had literary antecedents, I decided to write my own voyage around our bedroom. I originally wrote these pieces in February that year, and we have recently relocated to an apartment where we use all the rooms.
The room is around 12 feet by 12 feet, squarish, 10 foot ceiling, with two tall windows facing east and looking out at a former grocery concern that has been converted into rentable storage units. The walls and gently rippling ceiling are painted a warm whitish cream. The uneven floor is covered with slightly matted and inexpensive beige wall to wall carpet. One small shallow closet occupies the southwesterly corner of the room, with the steam radiator just to its left, and the entrance to the room perpendicular to the closet on the western wall. A small utility panel, which looks painted shut, is inset to the southern wall along with an inoperative phone jack. The room’s air conditioning unit perches in the right window, and below the left window is a temperamental cable jack. Four electric wall sockets ring the baseboards, two on the eastern wall, one on the northern, and one on the western. Above the room’s entrance was a smoke detector that was removed in a fit of pique during a summer malfunction, leaving a plastic ring and wire filled hole in the ceiling. There is no overhead lighting in the room, and the light switch to the right of the entrance can be used for whatever lights are plugged in to the west wall socket.
The main furniture in the room is the queen-size bed with drawers beneath the mattress, mostly centered against the northern wall and flanked by metal adjustable stools that serve as bedside tables. Each table has a metal scoop light clipped to its leg and a pile of books, papers, and Netflix envelopes beneath it. Facing the bed on the south wall is a black metal shelving unit that we use to store most of our clothes, with the rest in the under-the-bed drawers and the closet. The only other piece of furniture is an adjustable wooden seat and red leather backed chair with black metal legs against the western wall, with another metal scoop light clipped to its back. The room’s decoration is limited to a glass tube thermometer with red temperature indication hung on a nail between the windows and a cherished wooden framed print of The Poor Poet hung on the southern wall high above the black metal shelving.
It is radiator heated in the winter and air con cooled in the summer, and we spend more time in it than any of the other three and a half rooms in our apartment. It is a safe room, a comforting room, with direct creamy light in the morning and cool reflected light in the afternoon. I want to travel around the room and understand why this is the spot in the apartment that is most appealing. It isn’t the biggest room or the one with the loveliest light, the nicest floor, the most interesting architectural details, the strangest shape, or our most valuable possessions.