Residue

February 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had to move my office to the second floor of the building where I work. It’s nearer the classrooms and nearer my colleagues in the English department.  Still, the office is smaller and the hallway busier than in my cave on the first floor.  They’ve offered me the chance to move before, but I’ve politely declined. “I bet you’re lonely down there,” they say, “ but I’m not. I’ve loved hiding away in my room since I was a little girl. There are famous stories about me slipping out of the chaos of family cleaning days to hide in my room with a book. This time, however, as space equals power in academia, I had no choice. The Vice President wanted my office for another department.

For the last twenty years, my new office belonged to a Sociology professor, Mr. Slappy, (true story—I did not make that name up) who just retired. Legend says the papers on the floor were knee deep. Everybody wants to see what the place really looks like now. I met Mr. Slappy once at a poetry reading, where he settled back on the couch cushions and drifted off with a smile on his face–the contagious bliss of fiancées and soon-to-be retirees.

The first time I saw Mr. Slappy’s office, I balked. You leave, well, a residue after that much time, even when your stuff is gone. Maybe especially when it’s gone. All that odor and dust now has nothing to rest on. “It took us three days to clean it, then it was painted, carpeted, and new ceiling panels were installed. You got a brand new office,” the facilities guy told me. A legally blind Psychology professor I had not met stopped by to say hello because I had “the clean smelling office.” Also, it is a good fifteen degrees warmer than the old place. Heat rises.

On the day I had to move my office, my sister, who converted to Judaism, marked the eleven-month anniversary of my mother’s death by hosting a breakfast  at her temple. For ritualistic reasons I don’t understand, sweets and alcohol were involved. They had sips of vodka with donuts. I am absolutely sure my mother helped with that menu. She loved a party. Maybe she pushed me upstairs, too.  She would have wanted to me be a little closer to the action, where I couldn’t slip away, where I had to notice everything that happened on the second floor.
 

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