A desk’s drawers give clues to who we are, and who we might become.
This is what life is like now.
The sound of my husband watching television migrates from the living room, through the door, and into the room where I am writing. I turn on white noise to block out the voices on the news channel. Digital nature sounds wash over the commentary by Whatshisname, you know, the journalist from Watergate, whose name will come to me any second.
This is what life is like now.
A digitized monkey (or is it a bird?) interrupts my thoughts, so I lower the volume as I sit at this desk we bought at the vintage store for Maria to do her homework and keep her things. Now that she lives on her own, it is a space for me.
I wonder where this desk lived before we brought it home. Who rested their arms on its surface and what work did they accomplish before it was emptied and restored? If this desk were marooned on a desert island and found in a hundred years, what would its contents say about who we were?
In the top left drawer, Maria’s high school student ID and an old pair of glasses hang out with sticky notes of forgotten ideas scrawled in my handwriting. Hairbands, hers and mine. A pouch of glass totems I made a few years back, with drawings and words of inspiration like, “I have everything I need.” “Write and share the love!” “50 is fun.” Ha.
Bob Woodward! Phew. This is what life is like now.
Beneath that drawer, a deeper one holds my things — filled spiral notebooks, a box of blank cards in case the need arises. Happy Birthday. Thinking of You. With Sympathy. A burnt candle in a small glass jar. A new candle, unlit.
On the opposite side of the desk, like the other half of a brain, a drawer with closed legal files for people I once spent hours with, interviewing them about the violence that made them leave behind everything they knew and owned and touched — all the things that told their stories until the moment they ran to seek refuge. Folders with research on the basics of asylum law as I learned it. This drawer is heavier, and harder to slide open.
I open the last drawer, the wide shallow space in the center, holding the last scattered clues to who I am, or who I have been until now: two glue sticks — one old, one new. A charger that doesn’t fit. Soft ear plugs (forgotten). A Shutterfly photobook coupon (unused). The empty red box for a fancy pen with my name engraved on it, a gift from a friend that reminded me that in her eyes, I am a writer. Blank 3×5 cards at the ready. A recently rediscovered photo of my then-three-year-old niece riding my back like a pony in my parents’ living room, her arms and eyes lifted in joy. Closest to my hand, the last thing I put inside: this year’s birthday card from my husband, bright yellow and in bold all-caps: YOU ALWAYS BRING THE SUNSHINE.
This is what life is like. Opening drawers, physical and emotional. Examining mementos and discovering which ones still stir something. What will we keep and what do we throw away? Are we content with the contents as they are, or is a purge coming? Does one drawer call to us more than another? The answer to these questions answering the persistent one: who do we want to be now?
. . .
Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of Shelter Us: a novel, and Dance with Me: a love letter, and editor of the anthology Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood. She is working on a memoir about becoming a foster mom to a teenage asylum-seeker. Medium, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.