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.



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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