( I wrote this last semester as an assignment for my Creative Writing class, which happened to suck, but I might as well post it over here, somewhat lost in time.)
A few days ago I was flipping through the pages of a book titled “Post Secret,” which is a creative project that publishes postcards from people all over the United States with their secrets written on the back of them. One post card said “I hated my childhood bedroom,” and further down a collage had been put together by the sender, in where the picture of a sleeping bag had been cut and pasted inside the picture of a bathtub. “Wow” I thought as I imagined this poor man tucking himself in every night inside the tub, “He probably lived with twenty other people inside a small apartment.”
Who ever sent that postcard was, probably, somebody I could have related to at times, during my teenage years living outside of the city of Buenos Ayres, in Argentina and along with the other four members of my family. We all shared one bathroom and my childhood bedroom was the size of a small guest room, except that the ceiling was lower. It had two beds, mine and my sister’s, and whenever bored, we would jump in hopscotch from one bed to the other, except that one step was enough to make us land on any bed.
I must have mentioned the word “room” more than three times, but this narration is, really, about the lack of it. The only furniture we had were the beds and a night table placed in the center, so we had to improvise our interior designing skills on the walls instead. My sister, a future art student, used to build mobiles with threads that had colored marbles tied to the ends and would hang them close to the window so that the sun reflected on the marbles creating light spectacles, and for more decoration we used any postcard sent to us, any picture, which would get scotch taped to the walls. Soon the walls stopped being white as all of our friends kept smiling at us, their frozen faces trapped inside the pictures, along with those others we obsessed about but never knew: A picture of a young Robert Smith from “The Cure” on a corner, an Egyptian cat that reminded us of our own kitty, a Russian Ballerina posing in an arabesque on the corner.
Whatever we could not scotch tape to the walls, whatever magazine or book we owned, and whatever collection of articles left stacked in a pile, would go under the bed. Whatever did not fit under the bed, would be shoved inside the confinements of our closet. Inside the closet one could find the rarest articles: from a box filled with Barbie dolls with their eyes colored in markers, to old stuffed teddy bears and silver coins, to my mother’s wig she had to use while undergoing quimotherapy. My grandmother had decided to organize the closet for us once, so she took everything out and emptied it on our beds and for a week my room became a storage warehouse. I had to sleep surrounded by random childhood objects until we managed to organize some and throw away others. On those days I kept having dreams about living inside the glass displays of a museum and being trapped between hundreds of objects with the dense sentimental value that was attached to them like a thick glaze of glitter not being able to escape.
I cannot talk about privacy while I write about my childhood room, because if you wanted it, you would have to lock yourself inside the bathroom, hoping that no one else would get an urge to go or you would have to sit in the apartment hallway stairs for a while and try to finish your book in silence. My Dad would read the Bible in the bathroom for hours, for example, and my sister and I would have to call our boyfriends from the kitchen at three in the morning if we wanted to be alone.
Not to mention the heat inside that room: To relieve us from the humid summer temperatures of Buenos Ayres, we had a big electric fan that my sister and I would place in between our beds. The fan made a squeaky noise when on and it was rusted, but the rush of air felt pretty good, until after a few hours later when that air heated up and all we got back from the fan was more of the same hot air. On those nights it was impossible to sleep with the awful noises it made. Sometimes I would wake up soaked in my own sweat and hoping my sister would not notice, I would turn the fan to my side of the room so that it only faced me. I would get all the ventilation and fall asleep again, until a few hours later when I woke up soaked in my own sweat, again, finding out that the fan had been moved. My angry sister had taken revenge and moved it to her side of the room cutting out all the ventilation for me, and this is how the battle could last all night.
I recall many journal entries I wrote half awake on nights like that, with scribbled messages like this one. “March 26, Three AM: Woke up with a headache. Cannot go back to sleep because my sheets feel like they are melting. Took a shower and a sleeping pill. Felt better. Will try to go back to sleep with wet hair.”To keep this short I could agree with the postcard sender and say that I, too, disliked my childhood room, especially in summer. On certain nights, I seriously thought about placing a sleeping bag inside the tub and falling asleep in there, just like he seems to have done. But I am glad I grew up in my room now, because it makes me appreciate the space I have at the moment, even when it is not that much. The first condominium I rented with my family here in Charlotte was huge because I had a bedroom that was three times the size of my former room. I slept in a queen size bed and could not believe how immense it was. There was so much extra room that I had to leave my books on the corner, or invite my cat to sleep there too.
Now I currently live inside a “small” room with my own bathroom, in an apartment that I share with three other roommates, but everything is relative. I still believe my room is large enough to fit three more people, easily. We would just have to make a few arrangements though, like shoving my desk inside the closet and placing an inflatable mattress where the desk is, or making two people sleep in the queen size bed. Oh, and somebody would have to sleep in the bathtub maybe, but that would be just fine.