I’m standing in front of a gray EDLAND nightstand, tracing its edge with my finger. I glance at the tag dangling off its side. 32 1/4 inches long.
I stare off. At nothing in particular. I’m in the bedroom showroom at IKEA; it’s overwhelming, just as the living room section had been. I stare off until the space between this $149 three-drawer nightstand and the $79 single-drawer nightstand next to it blurs. Am I blacking out? I’m still standing, I haven’t fainted, and no one is looking at me oddly, so I think I am fine.
In my daze, I envision the corner of my bedroom next to the window.
Will this fit?
I study the side of the nightstand. The tag says it’s 20 1/4 inches in depth.
It’s gotta fit.
I hate paying attention to these kinds of details. But with the handy miniature pencil I picked up at the start of this maze, I write down the product name, article number, price, aisle, and bin. My furniture-induced trance is broken by the piercing scream of a little boy pulling away from his mother.
I wait until they pass—actually, I wait until several groups of families with strollers pass—and then follow an arrow to “Wardrobes and Storage.”
It feels like I’ve been here for hours. Descended to the Third Circle of Hell, wandering amongst the gluttons who can’t choose between chests and wardrobes and two drawers or five drawers or creme or gray or red or blue that they end up buying them all. Part of me wants to be here, to continue building my new home. And part of me wants to run away.
Because it’s sunny outside. I think about how lovely the park probably is today; how I could fancy a stroll downtown; how I could call a friend to meet for a 3 p.m. pint at Zeitgeist and stare at everyone who should be working but aren’t working and we wonder how they are able to not work if they appear to look like they need to work. Like us, I guess. I think about how nice it would be to lie in a hammock with my beloved, somewhere on a beach along an azure sea. How it would be wonderful to wander the white-walled alleys of Granada again, gingerly following feral cats up steps. And then sipping sangria on a hot day before taking a nap on our balcony, our arms intertwined.
Oh, my eyes. They often let go and lose focus, and I find myself somewhere in Europe.
And then I notice I nearly run into a child playing on the ground in the children’s accessories section, come to my senses and see the exit to the “Market Hall,” and run down the stairs.
* * *
My daydreams are rich and vivid and intense in a satisfying way, where when I close my eyes I see colors and loved ones; I hear beats and laughter. For years my daydreams were weak: they were fragments, populated by only me. But they are complete now. I dream of places I want to explore, of the person I want to be with, of sounds I want to hear, of textures and sensations and warm night breezes I want to feel.
* * *
I wrote about “home” not too long ago, as I had moved into a new place, but realized that having my own physical space didn’t make the meaning of “home” any clearer. I have bought rugs for both bedrooms, a floor lamp, a world map decal from Urban Outfitters and Marc Johns prints for my walls, a hat and jacket rack, an assortment of shelving, and a pretty sofa from Room and Board.
All these things.
But it still does not feel like home.
And then there will be the floor pillows and a coffee table, and the circular ottoman that will double as a table on which I will strategically place my favorite illustrated books, and the hanging lanterns for my high ceiling, and the large-format prints for my bare loft walls, and the blinds for all three windows facing the street, and the designer corner chair to complement the sofa. (But god, not the Eames Chair. I shouldn’t buy this. Could I?)
And of course, the EDLAND nightstand that may or may not fit in the corner of my bedroom.
And then I think about the night that I invite people over for housewarming cocktails: when I’m done decorating my living room, when there is food on all three shelves of my fridge, when guests can sleep in my downstairs bedroom and think: this place is cozy, I love being a guest here, what an amazing place.
* * *
But I close my eyes and am reminded of my fear of things.
And that, come Christmas, I will get nervous about how to explain to most of my family members that I REALLY, TRULY HATE STUFF: stuff I don’t ask for, stuff I don’t need, stuff that is given just to be given.
I’m not a grouch, I explain. I just want experiential gifts, you know? I want dinners or museum tickets or things I can consume and make disappear. I want plane tickets. I want time with those I love. I want something you cannot buy.
I think about how splendid a hike in the woods to a secluded swimming hole would be. How we could have a picnic on the grass like we had done, eating fruits and bread and cheese as the sunlight filtered through the trees, and we looked at each other and realized where we were and how we got there. How we could snuggle by a fire in a cabin somewhere cold, and read parts of our books to each other so we could share the worlds in which we were immersed and listen to each others’ voices.
* * *
And then I flip through the latest CB2 catalog that arrives in the mail. And I salivate and dog-ear pages of thousand-dollar area rugs and wine racks and cute outdoor dining and lounge sets that I want.
(But no, I don’t have a backyard.)
The CB2 catalog sits on my dining table for weeks. Then the Crate and Barrel summer sale catalog arrives, and then the 20 percent Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, and then the private Bloomingdales friends and family postcards. And then the bills trickle in, and I get my checks ready. And I buy nothing.
Five months later, my home remains mostly bare.
Yet deep down, I’m okay with it.
* * *
It’s quite confusing, all of this.
How seeing the accumulation of my things in a space that I own is both exciting and suffocating. How roots and wanderlust continue to battle. How I am eager for “home” to be something concrete, but know that no place I inhabit will feel like home until I have the one thing that’s missing.