In college I shared a house with a few close friends. We named it Bijou Manor and fancied ourselves a world apart. There were many things that made that place special, surely too many to write here, but one of them was my room.
Not long after moving in, I moved from one of the traditional bedrooms on the ground floor to a room at the top of the attic stairs. It was a small space, just big enough for a bed, a small chest of drawers, and a homemade writing desk. The floor slanted slightly toward the overgrown backyard and every board in the place creaked. The walls were paneled with ancient tongue and groove wood, permanently stained almost black from age and many coats of slowly disintegrating varnish.
Room with a View
I fashioned a faux-fancy lamp shade to cover the bare light bulb that hung in the stair well by enclosing it in a cast-off bird-cage. Inside lived a model bird, hand carved and insanely colorful. An anonymous third world craftsman carved it. I picked up for a buck at a local import store. Over in the corner was a gas fire, poorly vented and probably a deathtrap, but it always glows rose and orange in my memories.
The small space looked so much larger because it was glass on three sides. Two of the windows had three or more inch gaps at the bottoms where they hung square to the tilted and settling walls. I never attempted to cover the windows. I merely turned off the lights when I wanted privacy from the neighbors. It was a curious arrangement that left the place like a greenhouse. Very tropical on sunny days and cold and insular when it rained.
I liked rainy days the best. It ran in intricate patterns and into the gutters on the roof outside. Out there, in the back of the house, I never had to strain out noise. I was permanently isolated from everyone else. All I could hear was they womb-like sound of the rain and all I could see were the wonderful paintings it made of my windows. I could spend entire days floating there – reading, and writing, and listening to the rain.
A Place of My Own
My roommates almost never came up. In fact, many times I am sure they might not have even noticed if I was home. It was a place of invisibility punctuated by the stunning vistas of my ever-changing windows. It was deathly boring and intensely exciting all at once. It was a place very few people are fortunate enough to have. A place of their own. On their own terms. Filled by what pleased them most. It was space and time, an entire universe compressed into a 10′ x 8′ foot box.
That place is very dear to me. It was a place of comfort during an almost intolerably uncomfortable time in my life. It held me, and pleased me, and gave me time to think. That small place taught me many things. It was the place where I sorted out my feelings and explored white-hot emotions, both troubling and serene. It was a place of safety and a place of danger and a place to sleep, and eat, and dream. When I emerged from it, I felt reborn. The rain washed terrible weights off my shoulders, and though I was still young, still afraid, and still confused, it gave me the courage to keep trying. It was the place where I began to heal and from there I went out into a new world.
I am many years away from that room now. But every time it rains, every time I take the care to concentrate, I still hear the rain and feel warm and free all over again.