I’ve often wondered about the fingerprints that the important persons in your life leave on you. There are landmarks on the landscape of your personality that could not be built without the existence of certain people you’ve come into contact with; many of which no longer orbit your present. But their memory remains in the patterns of your speech, an anecdote you tell to new friends, or a burning idea that alters the all of your future. Likewise, we cherish the cities we love as backgrounds, settings, soundtracks even, of our lives — moments nestled in street corners and memorized routes. It is the history of bedrooms, however, that become subtle maps of yourself, and the selfs you used to be.
What is it about bedrooms that seer the details of a memory into one’s skull? Is it the limited space that prevents your mind from wandering outside of specificity? Is it the six sides encompassing you that let you mull ideas and happenings into a finite cube? Do rooms with more windows breed fuzzier memories?
It is in the safety of a bedroom that one can explore more deeply their feelings and ideas. At any age my room was my escape; where I went when I felt fear and loneliness. And these rooms let you see these emotions in a context tied with your age. I retreated to my unlimited possibilities of comfort and imagination in my bedroom when I feared my father during adolescence and I still retreat there when faced with wildly different fears in the present; the fear of financial hardship, romantic loneliness, existential crisis, when I’m depressed and unbalanced. This is my space, my safe place, my sanctuary. This is where my things are. The things I cherish, the things that are of me, the things I love to look at and touch and organize. When I was young they were toys and now they are books and photographs. That rare comfort of ultimate safety lets us truly investigate our own person without shame and without worry. We know ourselves better when we’re alone and in our bedrooms. We are unfettered and free there.
This is how I remember my bedrooms and myself: I start with a vivid object. I’m nine years old and I have a Dallas Cowboy’s bean bag. And it is next to the Cowboy’s lamp. Then there’s my bed, where I’d pretend to be a hyena singing loudly along to a cassette of The Lion King soundtrack. From there I fill outward as much as I can. With each new landmark, some of which are amazingly small in detail, like a loose floorboard or a sticker on a bed post, come new memories and trigger old feelings from that era. I remember the television in my parents’ bedroom and I remember the girl on the bus making fun of me for rushing home after school to catch Power Rangers. With this lush contextualization I remember exactly who I was during that time. I remember myself in a way I’ve so easily forgotten.
The history of a bedroom is a finite period, unlike the city you daily travel through. Though you may recognize triggers and feel comfort in your favorite coffee shop or neighborhood, the city still breeds possibility branching from experience. The room is a closed book, a chapter of your life containing a version of yourself and a complex tapestry of the feelings you once felt and, even more specifically, particular versions of these feelings. Each room, each chapter, completely unique but threaded by you and your memories. Factors like what season it was when you moved into it, or when it finally felt like your space and not a picture on Craigslist, after you’d given it some character by being careless with a bottle of wine or drunkenly hanging a shelf and marring its freshly painted walls, all become pinpoints in a history easily lost by the broad strokes of your continuing self.
That is where my deep love of my past and future bedrooms stems from. They are anchors. All of which have a fingerprint — certain feelings attached to certain tangible aspects of the bedroom, forming a story line of scented thoughts and memories informed by touch; the thick quilt of how it felt to be there at that time, stitched with whichever comforter you were using that time, how the carpet, or lack thereof, would feel on your feet in the mornings, or in the night, what decorations you cared about, who you cared about that ever entered that room, and what they did in there, and how they looked when only the bedside lamp was on, that lamp your grandmother gave you and that you would only use in that room for some reason and forever it became the light source associated with being 22 and breaking up and losing sleep and from which the tint of all sexual experiences would be coated for two years.
I like to think about what would happen if I could completely recreate one of these past bedrooms, a room where substantial growth in my life occurred. What if I could find that dumpy mattress in that two-bedroom off Yorba Linda Boulevard and replace that desk from Goodwill and un-tear those photobooth strips on the nightstand? Would I be able to handle that? Would anyone be able to handle a recreation like that? Undoubtedly subtle browned-out memories would come rushing back, filling in months of forgotten mental space. Would inconsequential memories you’d erased come fiercely crystalizing themselves at the forefront of your blown mind? One might pass out the very second they stepped into that space, crushed under the weight of previously known unknown. So I look forward eagerly to my next bedroom. I can’t wait to become intimate with its specifics, its subtle features, the new corner to take shelter in and cherish, my launch pad in the face of a new grand day.