Home > Uncategorized > Day One Hundred and One: A Simple Room

Day One Hundred and One: A Simple Room

This was taken from the writing prompt for the podcast Writing Excuses, episode 6.11 – Making Your Descriptions Do More Than One Thing, which specifies: Go someplace, use all five of your senses, and for thirty minutes write about the place you’re in. Not the people though. Just the place. Thirty minutes begins… now.

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It was a smallish apartment, good enough for two but great for one. The first thing you’d notice when you walked in would be the smell of the people living here. A lot of dog, a little cat, and whatever had been cooked for dinner that night. Sometimes beef, sometimes chicken, often with an undertone of garlic or cumin. The light in the entrance is bright, on a timer that tends to turn the light off a little too soon. You must take off your shoes before you go in – that’s the way things are done here. The pale, marble-esque flooring reflects back up at you. On the shelf is a key-bowl and the various implements of dog-walking.

The apartment, with one exception, was colored and decorated in such a way as to give away very little about the people who lived there. The colors were carefully neutral – ivory fake wood flooring and off-white walls, covered in the same fabriclike wallpaper that was in common use everywhere in Japan. It feels bumpy and rough under your fingertips, and it implores you not to hang anything on the walls it covers. “Punch holes in me,” it seems to say, “and you’ll have a hell of a time getting rid of them. Are you sure you want to hang something up? Really? Are you really sure?” Under the pressure of those walls, it’s usually easier to leave them blank, to let the rough, fabriclike wallpaper speak for itself so that the blankness becomes every bit a thing of curiosity that a painting or a hanging tchotchke would.

Behind the first door that you pass, a small door to your right, is a supply closet. It’s dark, with no good way of getting any light to find what you’re looking for. The owners keep a flashlight inside for when they have to find new rolls of paper towels, toilet pads for the pets, vacuum parts, duct tape, or any one of a hundred things that might be needed around the house at any given time, but which are really best left somewhere else. There are shapes in the dimness, things you’re not sure about, but for now it’s a place better left closed.

The door right next to it slides to reveal the bathroom. Push through the damp laundry hanging from above, with its faint smell of fabric softener, and you find a well-lit white sink, wide and shallow. Above it hangs a wide, clear mirror with three doors – one large in the middle, two small off to the sides. If you choose to peek behind them – and you do, of course, everyone does – you’ll find the usual clutter that people keep to stay healthy and beautiful. Vitamins and painkillers, toothpaste standing on its head and toothbrushes standing up in a clear plastic cup. Hair gel, deodorant, cleansing pads, lens solution… Nothing surprising, nothing terrifying. When you close the door, there is no monster standing behind you suddenly. Just you.

Reach out your left hand and open the door to the shower. It’s wide and luxurious, with a bath in which all but the tallest can recline. There’s a stool for sitting as you bathe, and shelves to the side of the mirror that carry yet more implements of beautification. A small, wire-meshed and frosted window lets in a tiny bit of light from the hallway outside, but when the lights are off in here, the darkness is powerful. The floor is wet and rough, a floor that is designed to channel water to a drain, as well as to keep people from slipping. There is no sign of mildew, or mold, soap scum or beard trimmings.

Leave the bathroom and walk across the hall. Go into the bedroom, which is mostly filled with a large bed, big enough for two. The sheets are rumpled, but clean. The right side of the bed has two big, firm pillows. The right side has only one, and smaller. A digital clock sits on an antique-looking bedside table that still smells of varnish and wood stain. There’s a doghouse under the window, a crate of pale wood that, at the moment, houses only a hairy, stinking blanket. On top of the doghouse is a cat bed, but it’s clean and unused. Clothes hang from hooks on the walls – shirts, jeans, a laundry bag. Open the double doors and there’s a closet filled with shirts and pants, most suitable for work and all in simple, basic colors – no patterns, nothing too bright or too pale.

Leave the bedroom and make a quick right turn into the kitchen. Like nearly everywhere else in the apartment, it is clean and white. A glass-topped stove sparkles in the fluorescent light, and fauz-marble counters are free of spatters and stains and spills. The sink looks like it has been well-kept and scrubbed, and above it are a variety of bowls and plates that are drying in a careful arrangement. Across from the sink is a cabinet, atop which sit a large microwave and a small toaster oven. Between them are an empty pet water bottle and a small electronic scale.

Go out into the living room, most of which is just as blank and secretive as the rest of the house. That animals live here is obvious, if you had somehow missed it before. A toilet is set up for the dog, a space in the corner where it is obvious at a glance the dog knows where to go. The walls there are scratched and damaged, despite a plastic film that was apparently put there to prevent such a thing. Another dog bed, identical to the one in the bedroom, sits next to the toilet. Atop that is another cat bed, equally unused.

There’s a small section of the room that can be closed off with sliding doors, and here is the second bed. The guest room, the snoring room, the sick room. Other than a freestanding closet, a small table and a vacuum cleaner, it is unadorned.

It is only when you come to the furthest corner of the apartment that you start to get a feeling for who lives here. The walls are lined with tall, glass-fronted bookcases, shelves packed with books. Paperbacks and hardcovers, graphic novels and texts of all kinds, sizes and colors. At first, it’s a wild mosaic of reading, but closer inspection shows careful consideration in how the books have been arranged. Sharing space with the books are… things. Mementos Souvenirs. A set of rainbow-colored rings on a chain. A DSLR camera. A small plastic container with a metal inside that will melt if it gets too warm. A large pair of stereo headphones. A statuette of Ganesh. A homemade display case full of novelty superhero rings. A small wooden box filled with tiny steel balls. These are shelves made for exploring.

There is an L-shaped desk, and a chair on a small swatch of Persian-ish carpet. The desk, like the bookcases, is a thing of organized clutter, with a cup full of pens, a few small books, cat brushes and a coin case, among other things. The desk is dominated by two large compute monitors, hovering side-by-side on a metal brace that is clamped to the back of the desk. It rests behind a sofa, which returns us to the world of the nondescript – beige leatheresque, irreparably damaged by the inconsiderate claws of pets. When you sit on the sofa, you have nothing to look at but a clean table of dark wood, a chair, and a television well past its obsolescence. Only the space behind you reveals any secrets of the people who live here. All else is kept from you behind the innocuous inoffensiveness of eggshell and ivory.

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Okay, this took slightly longer than 30 minutes, and could probably do with a lot of improvement if I ever mean to make it an actual setting for a story. But it was interesting to think about the place in that kind of detail.

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