A Room of My Own, Part I of III

Dresser, Michelle Otero

For the first few months I lived in the house, Henry and I waged a quiet battle over the bedroom top-down/bottom-up blinds. He would open from the bottom up in order to get an unobstructed view of the backyard, and more importantly, the ground and the garden outside our window. I would open from the top in order to protect my belongings on the dresser from fading in the mid afternoon sun.

I had adorned our dresser with a woven red scarf, gifted to me by Joy Harjo via a member of my post-fire guitar committee (to think, I almost played a former Joy Harjo guitar!), the alebrije pig purchased in Oaxaca just days before the fire, and an assortment of jewelry boxes from my dear friend Margo.

Retablo, Michelle Otero

The battle came to a head one morning, when after waking early and lowering the shade from the top, I returned to the bedroom while Henry was showering to find it raised from the bottom. I restored the shade to its correct position and started making the bed. When Henry came back in the room, he changed the shade again.

“You’re never in here in the afternoon,” I said. “Why do you need to see the ground?”

Jardín, Michelle Otero

He joked that perhaps I was being materialistic.

Then I started crying. “This is the only part of the house that’s mine. If it gets ruined…” I didn’t finish my sentence. I didn’t have to.

Henry gave me a big hug. Then he fixed the blinds.

We weren’t talking about blinds, just like couples that argue about the toilet paper roll aren’t really talking about toilet paper.

Little Pig, Michelle Otero

I was really talking about space, about needing a part of the house or the office where I could have my things out and not worry that they would fade in the sun or get mixed up with Legos or crayons. I was talking about how much I missed my green desk and my corkboard and my altar; not for their own sake, but because they were mine. But really, I wasn’t talking about things at all—not the shade, not my desk, not the scarf on the dresser. I was mourning something I had not yet acknowledged: the loss of my writing space.

New Office, Michelle Otero

Henry and I share an office, a small apartment about ten steps from the backdoor of our house. Before the fire, before I moved in, my section functioned as a storage area and communal space for Connecting Community Voices and Valle Encantado. We had jam sessions and meetings in that space. He sometimes painted in there or played the piano. After the fire, my parents, Henry and I spent that first weekend clearing out old furniture and making room for the desk, corkboard, lamp and printer that had been donated by incredibly generous former neighbors of the Castle Apartments. We pulled a table from the living room for me to use as an altar. And then I got to work on the book.

Only I couldn’t write. I gave myself permission not to write. Writing takes energy, and I was expending most of that energy absorbing the shock of the fire, adjusting to the rhythms of life in a house with a partner and two children (funny, they’re different from roommates). I was playing the lead in Teatro Nuevo México’s production of Yerma by Federico García Lorca, a role for which I had auditioned a month before the fire. Yerma is a woman so desperate to have a child that she becomes obsessed, and her obsession drives her to commit a horrible act. My first two months of life after the fire were spent in rehearsals, memorizing lines, reading and re-reading Lorca’s words in Spanish. I needed the structure, focus and discipline that the role required. It was physically and emotionally demanding, which got me out of my head, enabled me to channel my sense of loss, and helped me sleep. I knew I would go back to the book after the show.

We closed Yerma on October 4; a week later, my grandfather died.

Click to read Part II, posted August 26, 2010.

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love reading the vessel. Your stories, thoughts and ponderings touch me deeply. So glad that you do what you do. I also send you a blessing of light and love. Virginia Marie +

    • Gracias, Virgina Marie. Recibo tu bendición con los brazos y el corazón abiertos. Y te mando mucha luz, mucho amor.

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