Room 37

I moved into room 37 four days after the attacks of September 11. I studied Hebrew flash cards in that room. I read Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness and Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, and at least one of the Niehburs, and plenty of other texts that have, along with the grammatical rules for Hebrew verbs, faded to the recesses of by brain.

I used my first cell phone in that room. I still had a desktop computer. I mourned the loss of my grandmother. It was one of the last places I ever lived by myself.

I was back there this weekend. Nobody is living in it right now, so the room stands empty, the bookshelves awaiting somebody else’s texts. When I walked in, the smell of the room hit me — musty, but in a good way, as familiar as the words of a well-loved poem. I wonder how many books have been read there in the ten years since I left, or in the eighty years before I arrived.

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