Over the past few days, the boyfriend has single-handedly built a wall-to-wall sliding-door storage closet in our living room. Banned from the construction site because of my clumsiness (and rightly so; yesterday, for example, while carrying my computer, I somehow slipped on our non-slippery floor, careened into the wall, and jabbed my back with the doorhandle), I spent most of the time doing nothing. So why am I so tired?
At first I thought it was a feng shui thing; like our cat Ali seemed to, I found the new arrangement of furniture in our living room to be disturbing. We have far too many armoires. (Trying to sell them has been my job, and I haven’t had any success yet – though I did get asked on a date by one guy whose query email I answered politely.) One of the armoires is almost blocking the window. It’s got to be that, I figured.
But actually, now that the room’s been cleaned up, sitting here among the crowded, hulking furniture is kind of cozy. Even Ali seems fine with it.
Maybe my fatigue has to do with physical exertion. I may not have built the closet, but I did go to the hardware store with the boyfriend on several occasions, often bearing heavy burdens back. On Monday, he and I were off work, and I awoke luxuriously at 10am, only to have him corner me in the kitchen and say we had to go to the hardware store right away because he needed more wood boards. And so, an hour and a half later, there we were, each trying to maneuver a board that was wider and taller than me, through the doors of a Metro train. Funny observation: If you ride the Metro with a wide wooden board that reaches almost to the ceiling of the train car, people sort of get weirded out, as though you’re trying to box them in. No one will sit next to you. If only I could carry a huge wood board with me on my crowded morning commute….
But really, this is lightweight stuff. A lot of things in our apartment have been brought here by the boyfriend and me – even our huge water-heater, which I wheeled on a hand truck through about a mile’s worth of bustling city streets, several years ago. Plus, our building now has an elevator, so we didn’t even have to haul our purchases up the stairs, like we used to.
I'd felt increasingly ill-at-ease as the closet-building went on. Perhaps it was because, out of solidarity, I didn’t watch any TV while the boyfriend was working. But while “Belle Toute Nue” (the French version of “How to Look Good Naked”) and streaming episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” can be incredibly soothing, this time I felt they wouldn’t have solved the problem.
I realize that maybe what was making me tired is what this closet represents. It’s the first major construction work we’ve done in our apartment, which badly needs it. It’s something that’s been planned and talked about for over a year. And suddenly, the perpetually-procrastinating boyfriend was actually agreeing with me that we needed to do it, and fine with the idea of doing it in September, and suddenly, September was here, and we were ordering the supplies, and suddenly, he was working on it.
I’ve desperately wanted us to fix this place up since I moved here six years ago. The apartment is spacious, with big windows and high ceilings, and has a lot of potential. But the boyfriend, who’d bought it and had been living in it for several years before I came along, sort of just let things stagnate. There was no logic to how the place was decorated – or, what’s far worse – no thought to making it more compatible to his life. Though he collects antique books, for example, he had no bookshelves.
The years have gone by, and the place now really needs to be renovated, regardless of one’s taste or shelving needs. Last November, the wood-framed windows in our kitchen and bathroom were getting so splintery that we had to have them replaced. To do that, the boyfriend had to clear away all the planters he’d uselessly stockpiled on the kitchen windowsill. This was quite the event, involving me going into hysterics at the sight of two enormous spiders that had been hiding under one of the planters (you know a spider is big when you don’t recognize what it is at first…and then, if you’re arachnophobic like me, if you just start screaming), and us unknowingly dumping dirt and dead leaves onto neighbors who’d unfortunately chosen that precise time to do something in our building’s usually empty courtyard.
Like the dirt and leaves, our renovation - and remodeling - plans suddenly started to move pretty quickly. The boyfriend had more or less called the project off, but then it was back on. Trips to the hardware store on weekends again, then meeting with a builder – then finding out, via letter, that our project had been dropped by the hardware store’s construction service, because it was too complicated, then contacting the builder on our own…. The major renovations and remodeling are now set to start at the end of November. It seems so distant. Even this talked-about storage closet was just a plan. But here it is, more or less finished.
These changes mean more than a more comfortable, organized home. Once they’re done, we’ve agreed that’s when we’ll start trying to have kids. Maybe I’m tired because it's all happening so fast now, after years of waiting, and it's kind of overwhelming. I’ve always sort of felt that I stopped “growing up” when I was about sixteen. There’s still so much I don’t get about the world, and ways I’ll probably never be an adult. But having kids and becoming a parent is an “adult” thing to do. Will I be a good parent? Will raising kids be relatively easy, or incredibly hard? I question myself all the time, about a myriad of things, but these questions are among the most serious I've ever had to consider. And the thing is, of course, there's really no way to get any answers till you go for it.
For many couples, the moment you “grow-up” is when you make some kind of major commitment, like marriage or a civil union, or buying a house together. Usually there’s some sort of ceremony or celebration involved. Often you hear about one or both people being at once happy and nervous about what’s to come. The boyfriend already owned his apartment when I came into his life, and though we do have a PACS (civil union), it was such a complicated, administrative matter, that we hardly found it romantic or a sign of love, so much as a necessary document that would allow me to live and work in France. We’re not much for weddings, so that was never on the horizon, either.
For lots of girls, the moment they become “grown-up” is symbolized by a long white gown. The symbol of my “growing up”, I realize, seems to be a set of tall white doors, sliding me into adulthood.
The closet, shortly after the boyfriend finished it.