Housekeeping in the Time of Corona

By Cindy Paul

 when bored

Back and forth I go, in my little rooms. Over there is the green suede ottoman, whose only reason for being is to hold my guitar upright, the one with an incipient hairline fracture that will one day be its doom.

The hand-carved, chunky coffee table creates a handy ell by butting up to the hand-carved chunky sofa. I removed the orange backrest cushions the first day. My big Lab required the extra room and, after all, I bought the ugly couch for him.

There are too many things in my rooms. This happens when you’re not looking. Inside the yellow-brushed closet behind the sofa, the wire hangers proliferate when you close the sliding doors. But only the wire ones, not the plastic ones. The plastic ones disappear instead of proliferating.

I have this wraparound computer desk where I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years with two monitors connected to a desktop PC. There’s also a printer, a small metal fan, all my cosmetics and a manual pencil sharpener, among other objects. When I started the choir a few years back, I realized a pencil sharpener was going to be a necessity, so I went to the papeleria and immediately experienced a painful and time-consuming dilemma: Spend a lot more money for one of those cool electric pencil sharpeners that you just put the pencil in from above and it gnaws away at it till it’s perfect? Or spend a lot less on a manual pencil sharpener with a small vise-grip-looking piece that clips onto the desk edge and then you have to read the instructions once you get it home?

As usual, I made the frugal choice, but it wasn’t easy. My manual pencil sharpener demands more time to sharpen, but is infinitely more rewarding, because each pencil point is a work of art.

Above my desk, there are way too many things. From left to right, there’s a cloth three-pocket hanging item where I keep batteries, plastic mics and various essential cables and cords. Then a large Klimt calendar from about 25 years ago, with a clock above it, the kind of clock that doesn’t click, but has delicate, unimposing hands that run smoothly around its face without hitching up every second, as if a second were actually a real thing.

A one-foot square wooden shelf juts out of the same butter-colored wall, within reach of the computer user. On it is a Realistic speaker and under it is a lantern-looking dark-brown contraption that catches and electrocutes mosquitoes. To the right side of the shelf is this wacky photo collection of some of my beloveds. The corners of these individual pictures are all curling and I mounted them crookedly for some reason. This produces a jaunty effect, as if the people in the photos weren’t really my beloveds, but only casual friends.

A pedestal lamp with a graceful white cup at the top and some big white silk flowers bunching together at the switch, a stand fan next to that, and a gas heater I haven’t used in years for fear of unwittingly killing myself, and then a dozen sweaters and jackets hanging from the wall above the heater, all bunched together so I’ve forgotten what the hanging device looks like. I think it was a nice metal one featuring suns and moons, but that could be the hanging device in the bathroom. I would have to look. It’s exhausting just to gaze upon, let alone describe.

A nautilus-style metal staircase in the corner, a Yamaha keyboard on its stand next to the guitar, and paintings covering every unoccupied square inch. Three dogs and a cat, and two Samurai swords, one long, one short, in the place of honor next to my Hotai statue. These round out the major components of my living room and studio.

One gets attached. A white porcelain teacup or an old brass school bell, for example, can bring one to one’s knees. I don’t know how I’ve stood the angst all these years. But even during the days of coronavirus, I find other things to do than to pare down my collection. All these belongings are essential to me, and I’m better at taking them home than carrying them away.

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