The Flat

My new bedroom window looks out on the little farm next to the building, and beyond that the valley, obscured and dulled by a brown haze. It hasn’t rained once since I got here, and dust hangs dry in the air. It hasn’t been a great view for the past few weeks, but I don’t care. The view is mine.

I have a flat now. Two bedrooms, full bath, a kitchen. The kitchen is cabinets. It is a strange feeling, having my own kitchen cabinets. I feel like I should fill them with something. So far I have two wine glasses, an unopened bottle of white, and a small box of chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know what to feel about the second bedroom. Even though it is larger, it has only one window and a powerful echo. I like the other, cozier, well-lit bedroom much better, and have decamped all my belongings there. The second bedroom, lurking at the end of the hall — it seems like too much cold space to get my brain around. I’m not sure I really want it, but still it’s mine, isn’t it? I can store my extra stuff in there, but I don’t have much and I like to keep my belongings close. I can practice Tae Kwon Do in there, but I hate to think of the reverberations my breathing and stomping will make in that echoey space.

My first night in the place I saw a spider the size of a silver dollar coin on the bathroom wall. I fetched a thin and jagged metal tube from the kitchen and crept towards the thing, weapon poised like a hunter in the Amazon. But my spear inched too close, and the spider suddenly scurried back to its home behind the toilet tank, and I jumped. I have decided to call a truce.

The next morning I turned on the toilet faucet for the first time and discovered that I couldn’t turn it off. The knob spun left and right without any apparent difference. I quickly found, however, that by applying downward pressure to the knob I could reduce the flow to a few drops. I tried tying the knob down with a handkerchief, but couldn’t get it tight enough. Finally, water spewing out at full force, I ran upstairs for help. Carrie came down, and with a delicate combination of pushing and twisting somehow got the thing to stay off, just a gentle drip into a small hand bucket. I haven’t touched it since.

I have two bedrooms, one scary and empty and one without proper curtains. A bathroom without a mirror or hot water, with a spider and a broken tap. A kitchen with empty cabinets. It isn’t perfect, but it has a view and it’s mine, and to be honest I couldn’t be more excited.

The new flat isn’t that big of a change, actually. It is right below Shurep’s place, where I had been staying in sort of a paid guest capacity. I still take breakfast upstairs with Shurep and his family, and I sneak up to use the guest bathroom, which has a water heater and a mirror for shaving. I keep meaning to get a mirror for my bathroom. I still spend most of my day in the office or up around town. Mostly I just come back here to sleep.

And what a sleep it is. Not perfect, mind. I’m lower to the ground and close to the little farm kept behind Shurep’s building. This early this morning I was shocked awake by what I thought was an angry wail of “Three funerals!” but turned out to be the first morning call of the rooster, all together too loud and close. Still, I sleep better. I have a new mattress, you see. The day after I moved my stuff down and spent my first night in the flat on a roughed up straw mattress little better than wood, I went with Joseph, a reporter, to get some new bedding. It was late evening by the time we arrived at the store Joseph suggested, a large and colorful place on Tibet road, filled with leaning rolls of cloth, stacks of blankets, shelves of sheets.

I played dumb and let Joseph do the bargaining, though I could follow most of it, the unreasonable demands, the stubborn refusals, the reluctant compromises, the building up and tearing down of the product in question, a four inch thick double sized mattress. In the end I took the mattress, a pillow, a sheet and a towel for 3000 rupees. We folded and crammed it into the back of a chartered taxi, and with some help I lugged the stuff through the dark and down the uneven steps. And then I made my bed, my own bed, and went to sleep, more tired and more comfortable than I had been in weeks.

Since turning twenty-three I have been cataloging various insights I’ve had into the nature of adulthood, and right at the top of the list is this: creature comforts matter. The rugged traveler in me sneers at this, but a wiser facet remembers that I spend a third of my life in bed, so having a good one is no small thing. Same with shoes, and clothes, and anything else you keep close to your skin. It is a dangerous thing, collecting stuff you can’t put in your pockets; you never know when you’ll have to leave it all behind. But it is risks like that that make a life better and a place worth defending.

My flat isn’t perfect, and I’m still on the rocks about living alone. It’s a little lonely, and makes domestic activities a little more awkward. There is still a lot of figure out about adulthood. But this morning I woke up to a gray and chilly day; maybe it will finally rain.


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