THE TOPOGRAPHY OF A BORROWED NIGHTSTAND
By Beth Ward
The only thing truly remarkable about this nightstand is that it’s not mine. Not technically anyway.
It’s the nightstand in the tiny room I’ve rented at the Ragsdale Inn. I came here tonight to be alone, to write, to re-learn what my own voice sounds like when it’s not echoing off the walls of of the place I share with my boyfriend – bouncing off his thoughts, and the grocery list, and the dog needing to be taken out.
A nightstand is usually the first piece of real estate I claim in the borrowed rooms I travel in, and I quickly cover it with bits, and bobs, and pretty pieces of things that make it easier to sleep in foreign beds.
My country’s flags are currently as follows:
Books, naturally. I’m never without at least two or three. More specifically for this trip, The News: A User’s Manual, by Alain de Botton, for helping me to remember to look up and peer out at the world; Changing by Mind: Occasional Essays, by Zadie Smith, to remind me why I write at all; and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, for when I need to be reminded that words are magic, and sentences were meant to dance and leap and move and save.
Cheap wine and its ubiquitous partner, the small plastic hotel cup. I think it was Bukowski that said, “What I objected to was to be denied the right to sit in a small room and starve and drink cheap wine and go crazy in my own way and at my own leisure.”
Another Charles also said, “One should always be drunk. That’s what matters…but with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.”
Either way, I’m covered.
A flower picked from the garden outside. For breathing life into dead, passed-through spaces.
Haphazardly strewn undies. Because I want this inventory to be honest, and I was honestly too lazy to put them away. Also, they remind me that all the parts of me are pretty, even if no one can see them but me.
And lastly – because, really, why not? – a candelabra fully adorned with plastic crystals.
I can’t take credit for this, as it was here when I got the room. But it’s appreciated nonetheless.
Nightstands are the most intimate of catch-alls – more than the table that collects our keys and coins in the foyer, more than the junk drawer in the kitchen – and even when they’re strangers to us and our things. They too manage to bare the weight of all those tiny pieces of our days that we deem important enough to keep visible – a ticket stub, the last of a tube of lip balm, stolen pens, kept business cards.
Sitting in a room where I’m working to remember myself again, I’m certainly grateful for its company.
Beth Ward is a writer.