Taking Stock, no. 1: Table

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New digs, view from above

Your apartment isn’t entirely yours until you have the essentials figured out: a can of Lysol, another of WD-40; a place for everything and everything in its place, including yourself. I finally moved into my new place and, as much as I like it now, it was only after seeing it again (for the first time after making the reservation) that I realized just how much I’d overestimated its size. The moment my furniture was carried in, my apartment felt oppressively tiny and it only gets worse when I have friends over.

Initially, I placed the blame on the size of the apartment, but now I can admit that the real cause is that massive green table at the back – an admission I did not want to own up to because I knew I would have trouble parting with this table. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend and, estimating the amount of time since that relationship ended, I’ve probably had this table for over 6 years. Version 1 came up to my ribs and was large enough for me to lie down on it with my arms outstretched. “Your boyfriend thinks you’re a giant,” my sister would tease me. That was because it had to be large enough to draft paper patterns and stretch yards of fabric.

It’s been whittled down: about 6 inches off each leg to be precise. Since then, I’ve devoted more time to other pursuits, and consequently a few feet have been hewn off each side of this plywood monster to be fitted into a bookcase, the shelves of which had collapsed (not book-bragging here, it was a fiberboard number that had seen better days) sometime in between the move from Apartment 1 to divided storage between mom’s and dad’s houses. I went to live with other people for a few months (which is, come to think of it, what traveling looks like when you have good friends to mooch off of), which meant living out of a suitcase and limiting my workspace to the confines of a hard drive and a screen. Now, the table is just a large desk. I’m guessing it can hold at least 30 mugs of coffee, considering how many mugs of coffee I’ve buried under paper while working at this thing.

My first apartment was a single room. There were no divisions between spaces for work and rest, and like with most studio apartments, there was no distinction between what was and was not me. I worked in bed, on the couch, at the kitchen counter while cooking; even if I had a piece of furniture custom-built for the type of work I claimed to do, it remained mostly unused at my mom’s house while I chased other things to work on. I resolved that the next place I would move into would have to have enough space for the table because that would mean I could get back to the work of making things.

So here I am now: a new apartment in what is technically a new city, and I’ve brought pieces of my ex’s good intentions with me as well as the promise that I would work with my hands again. In reality though, I’ve just been bruising my hips from maneuvering around the thing. My worktable is getting in the way of the work I now do.

I’d like to think that getting older comes with a clearer view of generosity, which is why it’s so hard to part with the gifts that our younger selves were too petty or too stupid to really appreciate. This table is no exception – now it bears that reminder of having been loved, of another person making my happiness his priority. These things will only become more important.

But like I said, it’s a new apartment. So taking this inventory of a former self (or at least an earlier version of myself) into this new space comes with decisions on what stays and what goes. And while growing older comes with casting new light on all the love and kindness I’ve been lucky enough to receive, it also comes with the understanding that I don’t need a larger apartment, just a smaller table.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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