I’m nearly 28 now, but in high school before I knew how the world worked and yet felt pretty dramatically confident there was no place for me- I would often skip class and sit on the floor of our local Borders bookstore on the corner of 59th and Columbus circle. It was there that I had created a safe space from the relentless tormenting of my peers. I would sit for hours, reading Calvin and Hobbes in the travel section where I would then sneakily slip the comics behind catalogues about Rome and Egypt so that no-one could buy them. And there they would safely wait for me until the next time I needed to get away. Eventually I left high school behind and found out later the book store had been permanently closed. To commemorate my time there, I had a tattoo made of Calvin and Hobbes sitting in a box (traveling through time).
My second semester of freshman year of college, I had a young professor assign us to write about where in the world felt most like home. As someone who had grown up in the same house for the majority of 18 years, you’d think the assignment would have been easy. But I was young and I was lost. Offended that my professor expected me to know or feel anything at all, I wrote about how I was still searching for home.
I got an A on the assignment.
Fast forward to 2020 when in a matter of 48 hours I was forced to decide whether I would get on a flight back to Brooklyn or move in with my boyfriend of a year. I was in my third year of living on my own, abroad with the Peace Corps, and the independence was intoxicating. From my little home in the village, to my larger apartment in the city, both environments were created with lots of love, color, and many, many pillows. When I moved in with my boyfriend, I found myself spending a lot of time seated and feet swinging on the kitchen counter. I’ve always loved sitting on tables and counters, but I found myself particularly smitten with this kitchen counter because it was where he had first kissed me.
I thought about writing only about that kitchen counter. But I’m not there. I’m back in my childhood home with my parents, undoubtedly over staying my welcome but trying to accept all the factors that are out of my control.
Covid. Immigration paperwork. Life.
So I wanted to show you where you can find me.
It’s not a hidden corner, or a comfy couch, or really any sort of escape at all. In fact it’s our dining room table. To the right is the kitchen, and to the left is the living room. Ahead of me is our entry way and front door. To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve found a more central location to claim if I had tried. But for whatever reason I’ve made it my own, and both I and my parents are very aware of it. They don’t seem to mind too much, as long as I’ve cleared my things for meals.
The irony is that I don’t remember spending too much time here growing up. We didn’t play a lot of games because my brother was a sore-loser and the older I got the more taken with healthy eating my parents became and eventually I didn’t have much to look forward to on the table. A lot of quinoa and whole grain pasta, if any carb at all. I was young and in NYC, I wanted burritos, fast food, and beer. I spent a lot of evenings out with my friends, or babysitting for neighborhood families. The table was always there, but I was often...elsewhere.
So now here I am, writing at the dining room table.
I write here, I fundraise for the nonprofit here, I work on my immigration paperwork here, I work on craft after craft after craft here, I even take my counseling calls from here. I’ve created a little home on a little maroon chair seated at a long table. Where I was once an angsty teenager trying to minimize all interactions with my parents, I'm now approaching 30 and happily welcoming all interruptions- eagerly hoping to see my mom and dad throughout the day so that I can feel less... alone.
Behind my chair is a large old radio that stands on the floor and looks and serves more as a table at this point. You can see it under the painting, covered in things. Mostly my things. I thought I would share what's there. Feel free to challenge yourself to a game of "eye spy."
1. Two bottles of modge-podge and four coasters from when I made homemade coasters for everyone for Christmas
2. A wooden giraffe that my parents most likely picked up when they visited me in Zambia
3. An unopened pharmacy bag with antibiotics that I've been reluctant to take
4. Colorful face masks made from chitenge
5. My college roommate's wedding photo
6. My old pair of glasses that I can't bring myself to toss after I got Lasik (because i'm still anxiously waiting to wake up and not be able to see again)
7. A purple ball of lip balm from the 25 days I tried Smile Direct Club and then quickly realized that it wasn't for me and returned (almost) everything.
8. A tissue box from the week I thought I had covid but just ended up having a cold
9. An absurd number of bottles of vitamins because i'm finally starting to care about my health (long-term)
10. A photo of my Italian grandfather
So it’s not a hidden corner, or a comfy couch, but it's mine for now. My favorite part of every day is when my dad comes in to start cooking dinner and plays his music, loud.
It lets me know that another day has passed. And then we sing.