Friday, November 5, 2010
Only in My Memory by Rachel Marsh
The whitewashed stone and mortar walls were old and crumbly. The ugly, celery green linoleum floor, supporting the nine by fifteen foot room, was slightly uneven and covered with faded stains. The wooden door had a lock that would sometimes stick. The old gray furnace only worked on the highest setting. The little closet was missing hooks and its door would never close completely. Half of the outlets did not work. The tan-colored wooden desk was small and flimsy with a hard, wooden chair, and the matching bed frame was wobbly underneath its hard, old mattress with springs that squeaked with every movement. I loved this place. My posters of favorite bands and drawings covered the walls. My area rug with its bands of different colors lied in the center of the floor, eye-catching and bright. On the outside of the door hung a sign with my name on it. My big, cozy and soft, turquoise circular chair stood in front of the furnace. My colorful clothing hung in the closet, filling it with the scent of fabric softener. My little black TV and Macbook sat on the desk; all of my favorite books were perched on the shelf, and pictures of all of my friends and pets were stuck on the corkboard below it. The bed was adorned with my turquoise sheets, kaleidoscope-patterned bedspread, soft and fuzzy blanket, and lots of pillows. My little pink table with my lucky bamboo plant on top and my ceramic gnomes and mushrooms served to further decorate the room. For primping, my black full-length mirror and shelves, full of various scented bottles promising to make you beautiful, stood against the wall. My black mini-fridge softly hummed in the corner. It was my second dorm room in Cramer Hall, and it was all mine.
I lived in this small, single dorm room during my sophomore year at Mizzou. It was my second dorm room, but my first time living alone. Cramer Hall was one of the oldest dorms on campus; so old, in fact, that my aunt lived in it while she was in college. My dorm room was definitely a place not a space to me, my home away from home. Interior spaces have a distinct difference from interior places. Spaces are more public, do not encourage any attachment, and have specific purposes they are used for, like banks, post offices, or grocery stores. Their surroundings are not intimate; they encourage people to get in, do their business, and move on. They are totalitarian and inhospitable, providing little privacy for people to dwell and think. Places, on the other hand, are more private and intimate. They encourage emotional attachment, feelings of ownership, and a sense of home. They are inviting locations that afford privacy and security for thinking, daydreaming, and introspection. My dorm room had all of these elements for me. I personalized the room with my belongings; making it my own, I took possession. It was a place of relief from all of the public spaces and the masses of people throughout them on campus. Inside of my room I felt safe and secure surrounded by its heavy stone walls. It gave me a sense of privacy, the door shutting out the rest of the world to leave me in my solitude. Surrounded by all of my beloved belongings, it felt like home, and I grew emotionally attached.
The room was used for multiple purposes, but only by me. My friends and family rarely spent very much time there, as it was too small for multiple people to occupy at once. On a utilitarian level, I used it to sleep in, groom myself in, study in, relax in, and snack in. The predominance of my time was probably spent either sleeping or trying to sleep in the bed, or studying or reading for classes at the desk or on my turquoise chair. This is what the room encouraged, as the bed and the desk were the two most prominent pieces of furniture in the room. I also used it often for something else quite different. I would escape inside my head and think. I would sit in my comfortable chair or lie on my softly blanketed bed, and drift off. I would think about everything: what happened that day, what my family and friends were doing back home, what exams I had next week, what my favorite fat cat was doing back home, what I did in the past, what I would do in the future. My mind would drift to memories and from those to daydreams. I cannot remember any specific daydreams, but all were about the future, and in all I was happy. The room was like my womb, filled with my possessions accumulated throughout my history. The solitude encouraged introspection, and the security sustained it.
My dorm room both encouraged and discouraged emotional attachment. I did become attached to it and thought of it as my home. I fell in love with it; it was the first time I had a place of my very own. I used to say, “It may be a shithole, but it’s my shithole.” I always felt relaxed, secure, and calm while I was in the room. However, the room also discouraged attachment because of its transitory quality. I knew it would only be my home for a year. There was always the awareness that many had inhabited the room before me, and many might after me. The only thing that was making it mine was the presence of my belongings; underneath them it was just a space. I knew it would not be my place for long.
(mine was the room right above the door)
Shortly after my inhabitancy there ended, Cramer was shutdown, destined to be demolished. My room and all of the others were stripped of their furniture, windows, and exterior stone walls. Eventually, it was blown up, leaving only a huge pile of stone, dust, metal, and wood where the dorm used to be. It is now only a place in my memory; it became a space when I packed up all of my things and left it as I found it. Now it is not even a space, but a mere pile of rubbish. When I look at that big pile of destruction, nevertheless, my heart sinks. A sense of nostalgia washes over me, and memories of all those times I had in that room, all that introspection and daydreaming fill me with a sense of loss. I do not feel an attachment to that pile, nor do I even recognize it as my former dorm, but I do still feel an attachment to that place inside my memory. I can remember every inch of my dorm room perfectly, and remembering it always gives me a sense of warmth, putting a smile on my face.