Only now does my office feel like my home again. Only now does my body feel like my home again.
I cleaned my office a few days ago. It had been months since I had tended to it. I broke my ankle in the spring, and I couldn’t sit at my tall desk for longer than hour or so. Instead I worked from my bed, from the couch, from the big chair with the ottoman, my ankle elevated and resting, accompanied by that cursed ice pack. My office had sat empty, yet somehow acquiring all manner of detritus: unopened mail, unfolded laundry, receipts. Multiple drafts of my last book, lined with red ink, dog-eared, waiting to be archived. Outdoor items which had made their way indoors: citronella candles, bug spray, the batteries for the weed whacker. Stacks of books so messy and high they had begun to feel oppressive. Printer paper. My passport. The abandoned dumbbells.
It’s usually the hub for me, my office. The hardwood floors and the sunshine and the chirp of the birds. My desk pressed up against the back wall, the one with the two big windows looking out onto the backyard. It’s the reason why I bought this small house on a busy street. I had walked all the way through it with my real estate agent, straight to this spot, and said out loud, “If I had this room, I would be happy every day.” That was five years ago. But for three months, through the recovery, knowing the room was there and that I couldn’t access it like I needed to, I was not happy every day, or at least not happy in the way I knew I could be.
I tackled it on a humid Sunday. I sealed up the drafts of my latest book in a cardboard box. Vacuumed. Tidied the day bed. I culled the books I was finished with and put them on the street in front of my house; they were gone before nightfall. Cleared my desk of past due paperwork. Made my way through the tchotchkes on the shelf to see if I loved them and they reminded me of something sweet or if they had just been shoved there to be dealt with later. Later was now. Now was now.
Is it weird to say that the room feels lighter? Or maybe it’s that there’s more room for the light? I can sit at the desk again for hours; my ankle will allow it. I can sit and look at the backyard, at the wild sunflower plant, the towering elephant ears, my dog napping in the afternoon sun.
And there, back where it belongs, is the notebook on my desk. The one where I tend to my thoughts in the morning. Only now does my office feel like my home again. Only now does my body feel like my home again. And even though it’s just me alone in my office, I have caught myself thinking these past few days: Here we are together.
Jami Attenberg is the author of seven books of fiction and the founder of #1000wordsofsummer. Her memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You, will be published in January 2022.