It took me a year of graduate school, but I finally have a desk. It is a tiny affair, one of those wobbly computer desks with a rattling keyboard drawer. My partner removed that and the foot rest and the back panel, so the desk is now two sides and a top, an upside-down-U frownie face on wheels tucked inside the corner of our none-too-big bedroom. It almost faces the window, which looks out over to the other apartment building where, I believe, a mentally ill man lives and raves about his mother.

To my right is a squat wooden bookshelf piled with my thesis books, pedagogy books, all the notebooks I’ve kept over the years, overdue library books, books I’ve been loaned and want to read, books I’ve been loaned and have no intention of reading and really should give back one of these days. Also Spot, my stuffed animal lion that I’ve had all my life, who has accompanied me on countless dentist appointments, doctor’s visits, weekends at the cousins’. He gets to sit on the top.

In front of me is a small bulletin board, bought because my desk doesn’t really actually face the window at all but just the blank white wall next to it. I said I wanted inspiration, something pretty to look at while I typed.

It’s mostly empty.

I’m thinking too hard about what to put on there. I don’t want it to be utilitarian, full of reminders of all the shit I have to do; we have a larger bulletin board in the living room for that. It’s crammed full of receipts and coupons and, on a lucky day, a check or two. However, I’ve already broken that promise for the board by my desk, and have put a few practical-ish pieces there for reminders or safekeeping. On the left side hangs a letter from a friend that needs responding. I’ve also hung my favorite necklace, because I love to worry it and play with it between my fingers when thinking and also because I would be devastated if I ever lost it. So it has a place on the board.

I’ve tentatively tacked some other items there too. Mostly photos: one of my great-grandmother looking stern and Sicilian with a wool coat down to her ankles. Two are of my mother, visiting my father on Ohio State’s campus when they were first dating. In one she is shouting at the camera, hair in the wind and arms flung out, and I think this is what it looks like when someone is in love. In the other, she is in profile, her faced turned toward us, biting her lip and trying not to smile, and I think this is what it looks like when someone is loved. My sister threatens me on a regular basis with the terrible things that will happen to me if I lose those pictures. There is also a photo booth strip from the bar we used to frequent back in Michigan, one I found left behind in the machine. A man is getting up and leaving in the first panel, and the next three are blank, depicting the same wide green armchair we used to sit in and pretend we weren’t feeling what we were feeling.

And that’s really it.

No, there is also a scrap of paper: a story is a complete dramatic movement.

I have this handwritten in all capitals. The more I write, the more important place becomes to me. I write about Michigan all the time. This past weekend I was in Seattle, and when I came up to the surface from riding the underground I nearly started crying for how happy I was to smell the air and be where I was. I cannot get Germany out of my head. Or Poland. I feel a part of and from so many obsessive places. But now I have a desk. I have one place to sit and write and think and feel. It feels good, but it feels intimidating too, like something about my writing and my craft has finally been decided. Maybe I don’t want to settle in, fill my board and mind with the things I want to write about until I know where it is all going, where maybe I in the singular am all going, what the movement is going to be before it’s finished.


  • Melissa Huggins Melissa says:

    Killer post, Laura. I really love the photo booth strip detail of the man leaving and then three shots of that empty green chair.

    Maybe you should have things on the bulletin board that evoke those places for you. (As I write that, it sounds dumber than it sounded in my head.) I’m imagining something like a vintage postcard with a map of Berlin on it, or your own photos of your favorite spot in Poland or a train ticket or something. But I also appreciate what you’re saying in the last paragraph, that you may not want to direct yourself. You may just want to go with the work and find a direction later.

  • Laura Citino Laura C. says:

    Thanks, Melissa! It’s funny, I do have some of those doo-dads sitting around my apartment and my office in Cheney (that’s where the map of Germany auf Deutsch is hanging right now, actually). My living room is full of the painting I bought in Warsaw, or the bottles I collected in New York, but something about my desk I want to keep sacred. Or if not sacred, I don’t want it to be full of knick-knacks. Or if it’s going to be knick-knacks, they’ve got to be important.

    I guess this is my problem.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    Great post, Laura. I especially love the descriptions of the photos of your mother.

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