The most surprising thing about our temporary apartment is how familiar it feels to me. It feels familiar for obvious physical reasons – it’s a straightforward, pretty generic place, the type that you find in little complexes all over California, with stucco walls and beige carpets and low ceilings and a tiny patio and sliding closet doors, and I recognize it from the Los Angeles apartments that my friends and I lived in in our early twenties. But more than that, it’s something about the spareness. The absence of “things,” and the space that absence creates.
When I first moved out to California all by myself, not really knowing anyone at all, in my bedroom was a dresser and a bed, and in my postage-stamp living room was a couch, a desk, a coffee table and a TV table. Every piece was from Ikea and either white or that particular shade of Ikea birch wood. And I loved that apartment so much: it was simple and clean in a way that made a hard period in my life feel easier. It felt like “me” in a way that I don’t know any space I’ve lived in has ever felt since not because it was “stylish” or “unique” or “filled with personality”…but rather because the things in it were so pared-down, carefully curated because that was the only option available to me. Each and every thing I owned was there not because it was part of a collection or even just because I liked it; it was there because it mattered.
At twenty-two years old, I couldn’t afford and didn’t especially want things like fancy vases and art books and tchotchkes; I bought one candle at a time to set on my coffee table, and always spent a a long time choosing a scent I really, really liked, burning it only sparingly. I didn’t have the money for the fancy throw pillows and quilt I saw at Macy’s, so I threw a hot-pink, fringed blanket that I’d found at a market in Santa Fe over the sheets I used in college, and all of a sudden my white box of a bedroom felt transformed.
Sitting on top of my dresser at home right now are piles of costume jewelry, loads of beauty products, a mountain of business cards I haven’t sifted through yet, a spray of bobby pins. On our coffee table are stacks of books, candles, a pile of remotes, pens, papers, and whatever projects I’m working on at the moment.
On our dresser here is a pair of sunglasses. On the coffee table: a single travel candle. There’s nothing on the floor except for a soccer ball that someone left behind for us.
It feels good, and I didn’t expect it to. Kendrick turned to me in bed last night and said, “It’s weird; you seem so relaxed out here and I was expecting you to be so panicked.” I am. And it’s not because we’re “settled in”; I feel more relaxed than I did even before I found out we were moving. At home, it seems like my days so often get tangled up in a haze of plans and rushing and things I have to do and people I have to see and stuff. Here, all we have to do is be with each other, eat when we’re hungry and swim when we’re hot, work when it’s daytime and sleep when it’s night. I don’t have throw pillows to arrange on the bed, and so making it in the morning takes seconds. I don’t have different-sized bowls or specialty knives or a cheese grater, and so I make whatever food I can, and it’s easy and tastes pretty good and that’s all that any of us cares about.
Every night we lay in bed with our hands on my stomach, and talk about the baby. One day she will be here, and it’ll be different, and still: all we will have to do is be with each other as the hours roll past. There’s something very peaceful about that.
I know our old life with all our things is waiting for us at the end of this, and I’m grateful: it’s awesome to need a random cooking tool, or a few extra pillowcases, or a serving bowl that’s just the right size, and know that you’ll be able to find all these not-so-necessary-but-nice-to-have things somewhere in your cupboards.
But something about where we are right now feels like starting over, like we’re stripping down and walking into an adventure with each other and not a whole lot else except for a soccer ball that someone else left behind, and that’s now become ours.