I don’t like the carpet. As the only carpeted floor in the apartment, I’m sure it is hiding a multitude of sins that would be more unbearable, but it is still pretty crappy. The carpet is beige. I’m not in love with beige, but at least it is innocuous, unobtrusively invisible in that no need to look here just move along kind of way. But the carpet materials are cheap, major paths are worn down and pilling after a couple years, so it always looks a little sad except in the first five minutes after vacuuming. The padding under the carpet is uneven and lumpy and a small fold is beginning to form in a high traffic area because it wasn’t pulled taut enough when it was installed. I used to do exercises on it every morning, but I found that the cushionyness made my pushups and sun salutation easier than they should be.
The floor has become a storage unit for many bedside odds and ends. The swivel stools that serve as our bedside tables don’t have enough room for all the half-read books, old receipts and mail order forms, headlamps, heating pads, and cell chargers, so there is a great deal of spill over on the floor. Usually, we try to keep things somewhat grouped under the stools, but there is an inevitable cycle of slow accretion of items, followed by a flurry of straightening to reduce the pile. These cycles fluctuate with household moods. The floor is a litmus for the level of stress or despondence either M or I are experiencing. Three piles of books, an unrolled heating pad, and four extra Netflix envelopes on M’s side or old purchases’ packaging, propped up books using the stool legs as bookmarks, and shirts or sweaters “airing out” signal a slide into tiredness and depression before either of us would be aware of it enough to verbalize that was what was going on.
The northeast and northwest corners of the room do hold regular floor occupants unrelated to our mental states. In the northeast, a black polyester tablecloth, and in the northwest, four containers full of coins. The tablecloth is there because we eat almost every meal sitting on our bed. After several small spills and drips on our wool bedspread, I acquired the tablecloth as a preventative measure. We fold it in half and sit on the edge of it, and it is really quite satisfactory. Over time there is the issue of crumbs which accumulate, but M has devised his own method of careful folding and rolling that contains them until we use it again and the crumbs stay less contained. The cloth gets shaken out eventually, so we haven’t had too many mice invading.
The four containers of coins used to be one bowl, but after searching futilely several times through the bowl for quarters that I knew must be there, I gave up the single-container strategy. Also, M has a curious habit of leaving dimes variously on the floor. Quarters and pennies seem to make it to a window sill or lodge in the crack between the carpet and the wall, but dimes are distributed liberally throughout. I have questioned him about this; he is similarly baffled. There are now three bowls of various sizes that either contain pennies, nickels and dimes, or quarters. An Altoids tin joined the grouping as a receptacle for foreign coins that change machines will not accept no matter how many times you feed them in. The bowls and tin would look a little less like a crazy person’s pet OCD project if it wasn’t nestled in a corner on the floor. But have I moved it or hidden it like any self respecting person would? Nope. It’s very easy to find quarters now.
The southwest corner of the room has both the closet door and the entry door swing into it, creating a small triangle nook. At one point, I was secreting Smartwool socks with undarnable holes in them in the nook. Now the hole-y socks have moved to a joint collection point with M’s in a largeish plastic bag next to his laundry basket under the middle section of the black metal shelves. The socks were accumulated in the nook then and continue to be accumulated now because of a deep inability to let them go.
I am generally fond of my woolen socks. They are far superior to cotton or acrylic in sweat respiration and cushion, but it is not my fondness that keeps them around. When I wear down socks, I usually get a hole in some combination of three places on my foot: the ball of my big toe, the ball of my mid to small toes, and/or the back of my heel. That’s it. The rest of the sock’s integrity is intact, and even after five or six years still feels and works well. I just can’t shake the belief/madness that I can somehow find a way to make the remaining non-hole punctured materials useful for something. I wish there was a wool sock recycling facility or a rag picker (how Dickensian) that would come by and happily take them and make them into something else. The wasted resources eat away at some corner of my mind.
The radiator sits between the black metal shelves and the closet. It is a six-section steam heat radiator about three feet tall and six inches deep with a shiny steam valve on its right side and the shutoff valve on the left. It’s been painted multiple times, with the latest coat the creamy white of the walls. The sections have decorative reliefs of scrolly Victorian-looking greenery with occasional arabesques. Holes were cut in the carpet around its four legs and the main pipe that goes down through the floor into the basement just beneath us. The heat turns on around mid November, giving the apartment the atmospheric sound of a pressure cooker with thin long whistles and punctuations of forceful release regularly throughout the day.
When we first moved in, I had not been in a radiator-heated residence since childhood visits to my grandmother’s house. We awoke at 3:00 a.m. to horrific clanging noises that sounded like someone was taking a sledgehammer and working out childhood aggression on the nearest pipe. We had failed to open the shutoff valves on each of our radiators throughout the apartment, so we had interrupted sleep in addition to freezing cold. There is still an old dish towel under the steam vent from early days of extensive leaking before M looked up how the valves worked and he went around and loosened the cap on each one and stopped the drips. Now it more or less works and gives off rather pleasant amounts of warmth.
A few stray items have been shoved under my side of the black metal shelving: a box with ankle boots I only have worn with suits, a thick and unwieldy leather travel wallet, a few circles of cedar that should be on hangers, an old eyeglasses case, a plaque commemorating an honor from a local ACLU chapter, and a small trapezoidal black purse with a short shoulder strap. All of these items are coated in embarrassing amounts of gray dust and get pushed further back against the wall, deeper under the shelf, every time I vacuum. I don’t know why I don’t get rid of them; they seem attached to some other life that I must want to keep open as an option.
Besides the laundry baskets that have varying levels of clothing piled in them depending on my mental fortitude, slippers round out the regular occupants of the floor. M has an L.L. Bean pair at least 10 years old of golden tan shearling. I have a blue terry cloth scuff pair similarly ancient, but also recently acquired my own L.L. Bean shearling made from buffalo leather. I got them because my feet get really fucking cold here. I have avoided shearling slippers for years because of my intensely sweaty feet, as I was under the impression that if my feet were slightly cold, they would sweat less. Not so. Plus, I am old now and I can’t stand the bone-ache of cold feet. I’m just not cut out for it.
Author’s note: The buffalo slippers still rock, and even in our new place I can’t seem to entirely rid us of floor piles.