Jeliazkov: Personal Belongings

by Laura Jeliazkov | 10/18/17 2:15am


She woke just as the light in the room went from dark to dim. She lay on her side, the blanket clutched tightly to her chin but in a tangle at her hips. Her ankles and feet were exposed. The air in the room was warm, though — the silence draped itself, softly, covering everything. The darkness was gentle. Her eyelids blinked and came up to rest halfway. As the fuzziness receded from the edges of her vision, amorphous forms crept slowly into a vague definition. The beds lined around the walls of the room took shape, then so did the varied shapes and lumps of slumber that inhabited them. Everything was still. She took a deep breath.

The windows on the wall behind her head arched high; the blinds twisted at odds and angles down their length. There were wide gaps where the slats broke off or bent out of shape; the panes behind were colored a deep periwinkle. A pale stream of light slid through a thinner gap right beneath the window’s arch. It sliced a line through the dimness. Ricocheted off the opposite wall. The refraction fell onto a heap of clothes: a wrinkled t-shirt, a crumpled pair of shorts. It intersected a bottle of shampoo. Slid over a pair of glasses. Over a book laid open to a page face-down. A creased folding map. All throughout the dimness lay these various shapes. The whole floor was strewn with belongings. The traveling packs they came from slouched — shapeless, empty — against the bedposts.

Yet the frenzied disorder did not intrude upon the stillness and the softness, no — rather, it grew into it. That deep periwinkle draped itself over everything — the haphazard lines were unified. The proportions were smoothed. The scatter became one shape. The room was of one canvas. The frenzied disorder gave the stillness dimension, and it gave the softness depth.

As she watched, these shapes and lumps of slumber became more and more defined. Corners and edges sharpened, and contrasts darkened. The pale stream of light grew in intensity. Her eyes followed it traveling lower and lower down the wall. It struck, finally, a point right at the brown-tousled head of a bed. Her gaze shifted to the bright yellow sheet blanketing this shape. Colors had faded onto the canvas of the room, now; the deep periwinkle was being divided, slowly, in different ways. The scatter began to split again. Finally, even shadows of depth appeared. Though her eyes had been open, she had failed to notice the stream of light growing too large for the thinner gap in the blinds right beneath the window’s arch. The stream had slowly breathed its soft warm light into the whole space of the room.

She blinked. Moved her eyes slowly right. Slowly left. And just like that, the room had become, once more, a living space. She blinked, and it was as though a page had been turned. A light, whistling snore could be heard from the corner. A sheet rustled, then a body turned to its other side in a bed across the way. She wiggled her toes. A bird trilled outside. Someone reached a hand out from beneath the covers and felt on the floor for their glasses.

She was in a room at a hostel. Her bed with the tangled sheet was one among 12 in the high-ceilinged space. The shapes and lumps of slumber were a collection of strangers resting together for the night. And now, once again, the hum of the day had started up. The strangers were stirring. Stretching. Yawning. With a sudden, violent movement, she threw back her tangle of covers. She swung her feet to the ground. Stood up. And clad only in a pair of dark blue silk underwear and a plain gray half-shirt, she padded across the cool tile floor. Didn’t stop to pull down the top from where it had ridden up her midriff. Didn’t bother to put pants on. Didn’t bother to straighten her hair for the strangers. She crossed the room. Reached the door. Opened it with a click. Slid out and headed toward the bathroom at the other end of the hall. She padded down the corridor comfortably. Proudly. Publicly.