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the white table

The days are not long. The nights are short. Guitars are hiding in cases, with scraps of paper tucked inside. The pen is full. There is a fresh notebook, with creamy pages. The little white desk is in the middle of the living room, a cascade of receipts and laundry perched on it.

I clean it off, have lunch as it stares back at me. This focal point, this fulcrum where my thoughts become real, this cheap folding table from Ikea. It is familiar, and patient.

the list


It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought for E. The man wore thick glasses, his face pock-marked, his smile almost forced as we discussed the price. He knew I was going to buy them no matter what so I was in no position to haggle.

And here, a shopping list. Butter, sugar, dish soap, paper towels. The most mundane needs, except I did not write it - N did. Her handwriting is all curlicues, with little dots next to each item. But most important, it is in English. This was for V's first birthday party, I am sure of it. How odd to find it now, practically the same day it was written but two years later. The lens looks backwards, and the picture is always of the person taking it. The list is a milestone, a sharp reminder of how we live, and what is important, what we need to remember. The rest is just noise.

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