I walked into room 139 at 13, and I haven’t left the green leather chair, somewhat functional lamps, and comforting brown couch since.
And it’s a silly thought that furniture can embolden me, strengthen a community, but it did and it does for The Central Trend. The overlapping legs and hushed laughs on the couch, the fights for the comfiest chairs, the defeat of leaning against a wobbly stool—all of these were so esoteric to the life I lived in that room last year, esoteric to us and the way stressful due dates and corrupt interviews lead to shared tears and communal complaints.
It felt like home; the furniture was alive with life itself, the messy bits and the tidy pieces both welcomed and embraced, as we spread across in a circle.
Conversations were easy—natural, unfiltered, raw—as I sat down for sixth hour every day last year. I took naps beside Ashlyn on that cafe couch when Precalculus purloined my REM sleep. I feasted upon our Snack Cabinet™ when the school’s cafeteria offered scraps—which it often did—and distributed KitKats and granola bars around the room in a telephone-but-food manner.
Never closed off, always welcoming, home—the furniture’s layout and essence unequivocally reflected the way The Central Trend as a whole has always been.
Now, I sit in a pseudo-corner, an intersection between the edge of The Central Trend and The Sports Report.
I’m on the edge—still next to Abby, thankfully, as we traverse the backside of the site and the never-ending pending stories tab—and it’s awkward and cumbersome and severed and terrifyingly troglodytic for a girl who loved the way a circle of eclectic furniture felt like home.
And while I oscillate between embracing Change and her pansophical presages or spitting her name out like a curse carved by ancestors and passed down like poison, I can recalcitrantly renounce this change; everything feels different, is different, but in a way that causes me to doubt the stiff blue chair beneath me and the closed-off couch adjacent to my beat sneakers.
I am a believer in science, a believer in masks, a believer in social distancing, a believer in COVID-19, so I understand the change—I see where she is coming from. It’s necessary for our 13-person staff to be stagnantly spread apart (I would rather see them from across the room than wait 14 days to hear their laugh again). Yet I grapple with the compromise in my mind.
Maybe I’m selfish in that way.
For I miss the circle and the closeness and the shoulder naps and the fights for the chairs, and I miss the community that was built off that all. This room is a reflection of me, of staff, of what I’ve cherished for four years now, and my selfish want for this final year to be like all the others is at odds with the sterility of the layout.
Staff is still close, still talking, still us, but I can’t help but battle the intrusive thoughts of what it would be like if the room was The Room and not just another.
The room is different, and it is an old reflection of a new time, but so is this new era of pandemic life.
So I wear my mask, keep my distance, wipe my chair and desk in hopes that sometime soon, sometime before I fatefully cross my tassel, that I’ll sit on the couch once more and feel like the world is conquerable as words fall onto my screen and my head rests upon a shoulder.