There was a moment after I fell and hit my head when everything felt pure. I was forgetting things that had happened just seconds before, but I was aware of who I was (Rebecca, daughter of Jean and Bill, sister of Sara and Manda, sister-in-law to Yessar and aunt to three nephews; Michael’s girlfriend; photographer), where I was (my apartment), and what my purpose was that day (moving Michael in) – but everything else was gone. Everything else was gone, and I had the epiphany that I had maybe never felt that good in my life.
I had no idea that I had only gotten three-and-a-half hours of sleep because I had manically painted the front room of my apartment and then re-painted it, intending to make it a light grey, but having chosen a grey that was so light that it just looked like the white I started with. I had no idea I had been upset about that and just suppressing it so that I could get through the day.
I forgot that I had been so worried about my friend Alyssa coming over and Michael’s brother helping him move in that I had spent almost all of Friday trying to get things “move-in ready” which meant “minimized, repainted, clean,” so that they wouldn’t think I had been living in a sty. I forgot that I thought I was living in a sty even though I knew I certainly was not.
I forgot that I had been agonizing about a duvet cover. The duvet cover I currently have is not very “us,” for Michael and me – it is very, very me. It’s fuschia with metallic gold plaid. My mom got it for me as what we can call a “separation gift” after I left my former spouse. It was a great gift because I had seen it in a store, been outpriced, and chalked it up as one of those things that you can’t always get, but it was a nice idea. But it is so perfectly me, and my mother knew that, so she surprised me with it one day when I was living in her house, in the room next to hers. I consider this duvet cover my swaddling blanket, because it was given to me at a time when I might as well have been being born all over again.
There’s no way that, visually speaking, any duvet cover can match up to this duvet cover. This duvet cover is a sign of divine providence. This duvet cover is the duvet cover of my life.
That being said, though, Michael is the love of my life, and so while I have to acknowledge and honor this duvet cover and all it has been to me, I also have to very carefully consider what a life together looks like. And it doesn’t just look like me – all fuschia and gold – it looks like us. This duvet cover will not do for us.
I had forgotten that most of the day before, I had spent fixated on balancing duvet covers, pillowcases, and room colors. I forgot that I had gone into what I think might qualify as a manic rage trying to make all of this duvet stuff happen. For about an hour, I was clean and happy and the walls looked fine and when I opened my computer I saw the duvet cover I’d wanted to buy and the plan about the cover and the sheets and the paper flowers I wanted to hand-make out of the pages of contemporary art magazines all came back to me, but none of the buzzing and tightening and keeping calm and carrying on and gritted teeth and cold and weighted hands came back. None of the walking around Lincoln Park from Urban Outfitters to Bed Bath and Beyond to West Elm to World Market to Home Depot and then back up to my apartment. None of the actually putting my hand up to the side of my face so that I couldn’t see the clock because I knew that once I saw it I’d feel tired. All of that was gone.
And I remember it now, thirty-six hours later, as a fact. I remember the fact that I had felt that way, but I still don’t feel that way now. When I opened up my computer after I found myself magically in my apartment, not knowing how I’d gotten there, what popped up was a browser with a duvet cover from West Elm in one tab and sheets at Target in another, and I remembered: grey duvet cover, coral sheets, purple pillows. Right, that was the plan!
Sometimes I wonder if this is how great people do things – they make plans and execute them, and in the meantime they don’t agonize or put the same problem through their head over and over and over, and over and over and over. They spend that time aware of their own thoughts and perceptions and they act on that self-awareness.
On Friday night, when I was walking around Lincoln Park trying to find just the right duvet cover and just the right paint color, I had to pause at the southwest corner of Willow and Bissell because a northbound Brown Line train was passing and on the curve the track takes at that exact spot, at night, the train passing looks like a zoetrope. It made me profoundly and purely happy. It made me happy enough to say “southwest corner of Willow and Bissell” to myself over and over while I was navigating over iced-over sidewalks. It made me happy enough that even without the memory of the evening, I could remember the sight of the zoetrope train at the southwest corner of Willow and Bissell, and happy enough that while Michael and I sat in the ER waiting for my x-rays and the doctor’s opinion about my concussed head, I could remember to tell him about my pure moment of joy with the zoetrope train.