My mother always worried about never being able to finish cleaning the basement of our house. She’d try to put things in boxes, label the boxes, and push them in corners. She would hide the boxes with curtains that she’d make and tape them to the ceiling in a presentable way. She would buy corkboards and cut out family photos to make collages. She would hang the family photos by the couch and the TV that didn’t work anymore but completed the scene. When we had guests over, and they had to use the bathroom downstairs, she would apologize for the mess.
Now, I live in the basement unit of my building. In the building before this one, I lived in the basement. There are windows, and you can see people’s feet when they walk by. I can never tell what the weather’s like until I leave my apartment. I check the app on my phone because I don’t like surprises.
I go to my doctor for a physical, and he tells me that I’m fairly normal. I just lack Vitamin D and need more sunlight. This makes sense. He says that I shouldn’t worry. So does everyone in this town.
My room is always a mess. And I worry about never being able to finish cleaning it. I have a pile of dirty clothes on the floor, and a pile of not-dirty clothes next to it. There’s space so I can tell the difference. When I don’t want my not-dirty clothes on the floor, I put them on my bed because I’ll probably organize them later. When I don’t organize them later, I put them on the chair in front of my desk. On my desk, I have my printer, a cup with pens, CDs, DVDs, a mug I’ve been meaning to wash, an orange I’ve been meaning to eat, cigarettes I’ve been meaning to stop smoking, pens that aren’t in the cup, and coins that should be in the basket I have in my dresser.
Next to the dresser, on the floor, are organized piles of papers and books. There are essays I’ve written, essays I will write, books I’ve said I’ve read, and a sketchbook. These things take up most of the space on my floor, but I left enough space to still be able to do my stretching.
I actually just rearranged my room not too long ago. My bed used to be here, and now it’s in that corner. My desk used to block my door from opening all the way. I rearranged my room so it would look bigger, and I could have more space on the floor. I rearranged my room because it was two in the morning one night, and I had trouble writing. I rearranged my room so I could take things off my floor. But I ended up rearranging my room so I had more floor to keep things on.
I like to see my mess. I know it’s mine. I’m sure to someone else, my room looks messy, but not to me. I know where everything is. When I put things away, I don’t know where anything is. I have everything I need and everything I need is just out all the time.
If my mom came over and saw my room, she’d tell me to clean it up. She’d tell me that I’m very messy, and I’d try to explain to her that this mess is very organized. She’d get mad at me for letting it get to this point, and I’d wish she’d understand. Just like when I was afraid to shower in the basement because there were spider webs in the corners and she got mad, said I should clean, and she wished I’d understand.
I rearranged my room because my mom always rearranged my room. She’d move my bed to where it wouldn’t block the door. She’d move my desk to where I could see what the weather was like. She’d make me curtains and apologized if she thought they weren’t presentable.
My mom would rearrange my room so I wouldn’t have to see the same thing every day. She would rearrange my room so I wouldn’t see a mess. She would make sure I had everything I needed and that they’d be there when I needed them. She’d put my pens in cups, my coins in baskets, and my baskets in my dresser. She would remind me to stop smoking cigarettes and to eat more oranges.
She would do all these things before she would go to sleep, on a bed in the basement.
Tom Fry is a Non-fiction writer living in Chicago. He is pursuing a degree in Creative Writing. Influenced by his favorite comedians and Waylon Jennings songs, Tom’s work includes essays that analyze the weirdest parts about ordinary life while demonstrating his lack of common sense.