Friday, March 10, 2006

Life without a Bed

True fact: once upon a time, for about a year, I went without a bed. Instead I slept on a rubber mat on the floor.

The year was 1987. I was returning to school, which meant moving from Illinois to North Carolina. I was pulling all this off on a shoestring, so after sending my stereo speakers by UPS and my books book rate via the Post Office, I loaded the remainder of my earthly belongings, including such furniture as I owned, into my old Ford Fairmont station wagon. If it couldn't fit in that station wagon, it didn't go with me.

A few days later, I arrived in Durham, North Carolina, where I picked up the keys to the one-bedroom apartment which I had rented, sight unseen, on the recommendation of a Duke alumna. Nice little apartment, if you could keep up with the cockroaches. Nice hardwood floors. I unpacked things out of my station wagon. My stereo speakers were delivered. I hauled boxes of books from the Post Office. I began to unpack.

Furniture? Well, I went out to Hechinger's, where I picked up pine boards and cinder blocks for bookcases. I went to a cheapy furniture outlet (you can buy furniture cheap in North Carolina) where I picked up a flimsy kitchen table and flimsy chairs, "some assembly required." I stumbled into a furniture store where I found a nice, solid, heavy wood endtable for only $12: I set up my stereo amplifier and turntable on it.

And there my furniture budget came to an end. As I was already understanding quite well, I was heading into a stretch of years when I would live on rice and dried beans and potatoes and ramen noodles and oatmeal; when splurging on entertainment meant dropping a dollar or two on old paperbacks from the used book store; and even that would be a stretch of my budget.

So... bed? No, no bed. There had been no room in my station wagon to bring a bed along with me. And I had no money left to buy a bed once I got to North Carolina.

So I laid out a rubber mat on the hardwood floor of my bedroom. And for the next year, I slept on the floor. On that rubber mat.

For that matter, I had no chairs in my living room. Sitting in my living room meant sitting on an old orange cushion on the floor. Surrounded by board-and-cinder-block bookcases full of books, my old stereo system on a $12 endtable, and a 12-inch black-and-white TV.

Life with no chairs in my living room. Life with no bed in my bedroom.

And I thought nothing of it. I dunno, back in my younger adult years I was monastic. Ascetic. That was simply the way I lived. Year after year. I took it for granted. All the usual bourgeois middle-class comforts were alien to me.

I didn't "join" the middle class until I was past forty. To this day, it somewhat amazes me that I have furniture in my living room. A bed to sleep in. A microwave. A portable dishwasher. A small but nice old oak desk at which I sit, typing this up on an old used laptop computer. Believe me, I don't take such things for granted.

And I still sometimes wonder about having so many "things." I mean, it is perfectly possible to live a good, full life without a bed. I know. I've been there.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Lucy said...

Recently in class we were discussing "poverty". We eventually reached the decision that its every bit as mental as physical.

To your way of thinking (and mine) I have an absolutely obscene amount of stuff. Yet, there are those that think I'm poor because I don't have even more stuff! And, I've got to admit, I think they're "poor" because they have no appreciation.

Friday, March 10, 2006 10:58:00 AM  

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