Where are you? you ask, searching the room for a trace of my hand. Here it is, the room itself, laid for you. My touch on every texture, every stitch. Even these worn furnishings chosen for the grain of the wood, for patina burnished over time are mine.
It seems a small thing to give. What is a room but another place, walls around space, where one can close one’s eyes and feel the listening air all around, large enough to make one feel small, or small enough to comfort.
Layered over every physical structure is our sense of it, the dreaming of which can transform one room into a home and another into a prison. Within the walls of the ancient Israelites’ tabernacle all was sacred, but an inner room was set aside for the ark of the covenant in which God was believed to reside— the Holy of Holies. The room was nothing, a tent, frail walls of ordinary cloth. To the atheist, the room was empty save for a wooden box, but faith imbued it with something more, made the cloth walls shiver as if invisible hands beat against them.
In rooms, all the world is played out. The four corners and all the space between shift to bear the weight of our needs. In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Hemingway reflects on the bar as one of the only places one can pass those late night hours with dignity- under a good light and in a clean and pleasant place. Rooms are also spaces of possibility. In her essay, A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf suggests that within this humble space lies the key to creative freedom, where potential might become incandescence given time for uninterrupted thought.
For time is an element like every other furnishing, moving unseen, only visible to those who fear to run out of it. In the Japanese concept of space, “ma,” time is not the fourth dimension, added to the three spacial dimensions. Space is composed of two physical dimensions, wound together with two parts time, entangled. The Library of Alexandria exists in memory not only as a lost historical monument but also as a room guarded by time, filled with unfathomable knowledge that can never be retrieved.
Here we are, in this room set in time. It is only a fortnight, but perhaps it is enough for those on the street to come and rest their feet. Enough for sanctuary, for enough silence to listen to the stories that live here temporarily, or for uninterrupted thought.
What dreams the room has, no one can say. A quiet wool gathering, a stillness so full that only the insensitive could break it with heavy tread or the swing of a door; the room listens, waits, sleeps.