What follows is a continuation of an out-right rip off I wrote in 2012 of Xavier de Maistre‘s book Voyage autour de ma chambre. Don’t miss the epic Part 4, The Bed.
Since there are only two things that have been placed on the walls, I shall start with them. The most recent addition is a six-inch glass stick thermometer hung on a nail by the glass loop at the top of the thermometer. The red indicator fluid picks up the red of the alarm clock’s digital numbers, the empty Altoids tins scattered around, and the red back of the chair against the west wall. Such is the nature of my interior design coordination. M had originally ordered the thermometer for photography development purposes, but it was too short to be suitable. I am a general fan of scientific and laboratory equipment for household uses and the aesthetics were appealing, so it was added to our decorative belongings.
The other wall object is The Poor Poet. M has had the framed reproduction since his college days, and it hangs opposite the bed, allowing us to contemplate it often. The Poor Poet is reclining in a garret room on a bed or mattress without a frame, very low to the ground, propped up by large comfortable looking pillows. He has piles of books arranged alongside his bed within easy reach. His feet are optimally placed right in front of a large stove. Clothes are hung on hooks near the stove, and a single window provides soft light to the whole room. An unfurled umbrella hangs above the Poet from the sloping ceiling, which I believe is an expedient method of diverting a leak from the roof. It is a pictorial representation of the English major’s ideal life. Few posessions, cozy solitude, and implied unemployment with some sort of income that is just enough to keep you in books, stationary, and fuel. A simplicity outside of standard measures of status and security, a low-grade lifestyle of seclusion and contemplation without the usual requirement of religion. I understand the appeal, but know it is a fantasy.
The rest of the wall space is bare. I find the creamy blankness to be a great relief. For many years I adhered to the belief that blank white walls were cheerless and conveyed sad bachelorhood. That no photos, no art on each vertical surface could be construed as an affront to those visiting my home and indicating a carelessness toward my duties as hostess. I had posters and art prints throughout much of college, but after graduation, my moves overseas and back over the next years reduced my collection to nothing. The moves also diminished my need to make a space my own by filling it with things that would signal to others my taste or preferences.
The light in the house becomes more important with blank walls. The clear warm white of mid morning bleaches out the views outside, creating shadows of leaves and branches from the trees on the window screens. Stripes and dots of light slant from the blinds, from soft blurs to sharper focus as the sun moves them across the walls. Afternoon brings a diffuse cooler light, until the deeper warmth of early evening. While deliberating on the apartment’s fitness after our first look, M was sure that the walls of this room were painted pink. I later assured him they were not pink, but the reflection of the setting sun off the red brick and cream-colored cement of the storage place across the street.
I enjoy staring at the place where the ceiling meets the walls and using the tonal differences to trick my vision into seeing the 3D projection of a cube. The walls reflect bits of objects near them and fade into different shades depending on the sloping imperfections of the surface. When I lean my head against a wall and turn to look along it, I see the brighter smears of our fingertips highlighted against the matte stippling of paint. Dust clings to corners and edges and the occasional cobweb flutters in a draft totally undetectable by other means. A small arc of gray scuffing is on the wall next to my bedside stool where the clip-on lamp has scraped its edge. I do not mind the imperfections until I think that we’ll have to cover them up if we hope to recover our deposit.