I woke up in my own bed alone. Four white walls met my eyes. The walls held a small, nondescript room with a standing closet and two twin beds. A single window cast droopy glow late-November English sun into the room. London light: it is soft, and old, and kind.
I rolled over and my heavy belly burps into my mouth the taste of potatoes, red wine, carrots, green beans, red wine, stuffing. I saw the shape of my American roommate and heard her soft drunk sleep snores coming from her in her own bed twenty-four inches from mine. The poofy duvet made it hard to tell if anyone else was under there.
I got up and opened the door to the hallway–dark. We were in a basement flat.
Many prior attempts (on previous post-gathering nights) to make it to the switch down the hallway had proven to be physically disastrous. I left the bedroom door open so the London light cast into the hallway. It was an odd angle, an odd shape, an odd spot of brightening, but it worked: I could navigate.
I stepped out of the door and and stepped over a body sleeping on the floor. A boy with dark hair and olive skin tone. He didn’t have a blanket; the crook of his arm was his pillow.
I turned left into the hallway and stepedp over over another body–a female body said the shadows on her rises and curves, though the irregular London light didn’t show her skin tone. I went toward the doorway for the small-but-still-bigger-than-the-kitchen bathroom. I had to turn on the artificial light.
There was a white girl with long blond hair asleep in the tub. She didn’t move at the burst of electricity; rather, the white girl’s happy-face, body stayed snuggled up against a pillow. I wondered where it came from because it didn’t look like one from my roommates’ beds. It had an upholstered cover. Did the couch have pillows? Oh, right. We have a futon.
I tilted the door mostly closed, pee, wash my hands, and turn the artificial light out before I exit.
I counted to 20; my eyes adjusted to the darkness in the flat.
I was back in the hallway.
Left: the hallway to my Venezuelan roommate’s room that might also contain the German boyfriend.
Best leave them be. Likely to be the last up.
Right: the hallway to the kitchen, living room. I decided to make a cup of tea that I could take and flop on the couch while I finished waking up.
I navigated over and around more shapes, went down the thirty-foot-long narrow hallway, stepped down in to the not quite 7-feet-high by 7-feet-deep by maybe 5-feet-wide windowless kitchen, the wee kitchen, the tiny, beneath-the-sidewalk cooking space.
Here I needed artificial light again.
Illumination: a turkey-carcass turnt bare bones and cartilage in the opened oven.
How this happened: the six-feet-plus-a-nudge-tall American Jew from Chicago (who had an oogly eye and the most luscious, booming laugh I had ever heard). He orchestrated a feast last night. He was the one who spent most of the evening standing crooked, head cocked so his gelly curls wouldn’t schmear-melt on the ceiling; he was the one whose ass stayed pressed against the oven door–pushing it closed because the bird was bigger than the damn oven itself. He was the one who spent the night chopping, stirring, chain smoking, downing glasses of wine, banging on about how food brings people together and dishing out firsts and seconds and taking compliments over and over. He lived for shit like that.
And: piles of paper plates schmeared with red and orange and green and brownish and white-ish muck and plastic cups drained of the liquids. Counter is not visible. Sink is full. I noticed that the top of the stove looked like a gravy bomb went off.
Fuck tea, I thought.
I retraced my steps, went through the hallway and then turned into the sparsely decorated living room. The futon, a shelf, a table, and one window, which allowed a view outside to a narrow, short passageway–the twisted stone staircase visible to the right is the way to get to street level.
Directly outside, in a small cove in the stone, there were three giant rubbish bins overflowing with empty wine bottles. I wondered who did that, who cleaned up the booze but not the kitchen, since from the sight of all of the sleeping bodies and the clock on the shelf, which read 2pm, I assumed I was the first one awake.
The single window let natural London light in here, too: the light was quartered, diced, and chopped through the bars that cover the curtain-less window. But enough of the light arrived; it illuminated a pile of skin-color-non-discernible and gender-non-discernible and nationality-non-discernible bodies on the full-size futon: Is that four humans? Minimum four. How?
I lived at the flat; I had permanent claim to a bed. But it happened from time to time–the flat got turned into an international party ZDM, a zone demilitarized of cultural and personal judgement, where the food, smoke, and liquid flowed until we were too full, burnt, and or drunk to do much else but drop into dreams. There’s no hierarchy to who gets to sleep in which part of the flat. I tell people to find “just somewhere comfortable.” Thanksgiving last night–I had lost count after 30 people. Then, through deductive reasoning and direct observation, I decided that 14 (me included, plus or minus the German, plus or minus someone in the other roommate’s bed, betting that there are only 4 bodies in the mash-up on the futon) remained at the flat.
The dreamy natural light that slid through the window illuminated just enough of a path for me to make it the shelf and turn on the mini-disc player–super soft, almost inaudible–sweet, drippy ethereal Air, the album “Moon Safari,” to meet those dreamers who perchance to wake.
Thanksgiving, November 2001
RIP Jay Michael