Three Colors in Three Rooms in Three Houses

18 Sep

Recently, I visited my hometown in suburban Pennsylvania.  Here’s some of what I thought about.

Three Colors in Three Rooms in Three Houses

    Birth – Seven

The carpet in the den is red; too red.  It isn’t soft or thick, it isn’t anything.  It feels like the floor when you lie on it, but gives you brush burns if you run and fall or wrestle there.  There’s a wooden TV, meant to look like furniture.  There’s a hideous purple couch.  It could be a lake of red discovered in a clearing, still and impossible; you’d be shocked to come upon it.  It’s not the red of celebration, like cherries or popsicles.  If something fell on that carpet, you might pick it up and eat it still, but you’d think twice.  It is, yes, a color of childhood in its brightness.  But looking at it, one can’t avoid the question: Why would anyone do this?  Not just put it there, but make a carpet like this at all?

The words “floor” and “blood” both huddle together two Os in their middles.  The red carpet is a flood.  Anyone that stands on it seems to float in that contrast.

And so my strongest memory of this first house I grew up in is not being so small that I could hide in the broom closet; nor is it seeing my sister fall down the stairs and break her arm and leg; it’s not the circus wallpaper that once, through a fever, sprang to life in its details with moving clowns and elephants; it’s not even my dogs galloping around the backyard with their lolling tongues.  It is not anything anyone did or said.

It is that carpet.

All colors, all words and deeds seem natural against that unspeakable red.

    Seven – Twelve

As a child, I slept in a yellow room.  Yellow is the color of the will, of the Archangel Raphael, of healing, of mischief, of laughter.   This was after the divorce, which I’d heard of by accident.  My babysitter bought me a book called Benjamin Bunny Moves to a New House. That was how I found out we were moving. The babysitter was not fired.

My mother’s room was down the hall, and my sister’s bedroom was long and pink.  Later, she would take over the yellow room and I’d move into the pink one.

She and her friends wrote all over the yellow walls with pen and marker.  Drawings of boys they liked. Curse words tiny enough that my mother couldn’t see them.  Song lyrics.

But while it was mine, the walls were clean and bright, like the sun.  Yellow is the color of the wind, of flutes, of archery.

I shared the wall with a neighbor.  At night, she would tap on the wall and I’d knock back.  When my mother found out, she scolded me.  “This is our own house,” she tried to explain.  “If you do that, it’s not ours anymore.”  I couldn’t make sense of what she said.

I hated church, like most children.  One Sunday, I hid between the mattress and the box spring so I wouldn’t have to go.  My brother- thirteen years older than me – was visiting from college.  He sat on the bed and leafed through one of my comic books.  I felt smothered, hot, like I would die.  Yellow is the color of the kidneys and of breath.  I could not breathe.  I managed to shoot a hand out from between the two bed parts and heard my brother scream, the sound muffled by the material and springs.

That was the room I made a voodoo doll in after signing out a book on black magic from the elementary school library.  Why was that book there?  That was the room I lived in when I had my first strange supernatural experience.  Later, in that house, I would start to understand what sex was, and start masturbating and start being confused.  Yellow is the color of protection.  It is the color you call on when you need help.

    Twelve – Seventeen

My neighbor would come over after school each day and we’d fuck in my white room, which I’d half-covered with posters of bands.  Nirvana, of course.  But also Jesus Lizard, The Pixies, Fugazi, The Breeders, The Cows, Mercy Rule, Throwing Muses, Brainiac, Minor Threat, The Pain Teens, Sonic Youth, Pavement.  Clean walls, noisy insides.  He and I weren’t friends.  I wouldn’t talk to him in the hallways.

Music and sex were everything.  I couldn’t see beyond them. This was Pennsylvania.

When he didn’t come over or was on vacation, I’d stare out the window across the street at another neighbor, who mowed the lawn with his shirt off.  The light in the room bounced off every strip of white paint not covered by a poster or a picture.  This neighbor was sweaty.  He had black hair and a wife and a loud, annoying son.  My mother said this neighbor was gay.

When he wasn’t there, I’d think of Lee, who lived down the street.  I’d masturbate and think of him coming over and rubbing his thick dick, which I’d never seen, on my face.  I’d try to conjure him up by doing that.

When it wasn’t Lee, it was anyone else:  My teachers; my classmates; my father’s friends; my sister’s friends; the construction workers who came to fix the house; my cousins; my friends; the men in the underwear ads on Sundays; the straight porn stars I snuck into my life on worn-out VHS tapes; my stepbrothers; people I passed by; customers at the record store I worked at; everyone, everyone.  I had a list of all the men I masturbated thinking of.  It was pages and pages of white printer paper, and eventually I lost it.  It blended into the background.

I became such a different person there.  When sex walks in, there’s no going back, no abandoning it or forgetting.  Like learning to read, the symbols on the page can never be clueless again.  Everything gains the weight and pleasure of meaning.

The room, because of the white walls and how it faced the sun, was effulgent and couldn’t rest. I masturbated in it not just once, but three, four, even a record nine times a day.  It was never in the dark.  It was always in the light.

8 Responses to “Three Colors in Three Rooms in Three Houses”

  1. BB September 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    And again I hate to read. But yet again another blog of yours that I can sit down and read beginning to end! <3 it :)

  2. Chris Kalle September 20, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    I am not exactly sure, but I had to read this twice back to back because it kinda reminded me of how my childhood was. I never had to move from house to house, but in retrospect visited friends in their housed all over the neighborhood. I also was very into two main things while being young, and that was music and finding who I was. I would sit in my room for hours and hours trying to think of how I could flirt with the new coach I had for baseball but then not come out too hard or how I would be able to face my parents if they were to see through my obsession with certain male figures. A home is somewhere that not only makes you but will determine who you could be in the future. When it came to colors, my room was always blue, a color that fit me perfect and still reflects who I am. Thank you for reminding me where I come from and who I am today because of it :) Excellent blog my friend!

    • Conner Habib September 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

      G;ad you liked it Chris – I know; so much happens in our rooms! They’ve got a sort of..charge to them.

  3. Michael Strangeways September 22, 2010 at 5:18 am #

    uh, Conner…you’re a fucking amazing writer.

    I’m glad you’re working on a play, but don’t forget to write a memoir…and a novel.

    I’ll buy the memoir and the novel and go see the play.

    And, not because of who you are, or what you currently do for a living, or because you are “hot”…

    Artistic talent trumps all that.

    It’s a gift and it’s also hard work.

    Keep working.

    Carry on.

    (p.s….more posts please!)

    • Conner Habib September 23, 2010 at 5:30 am #

      Thanks Michael! I’m starting to focus on writing more again these days and have an article coming out in a new magazine called Headmaster. I’ll post an excerpt here when it’s out.
      Maybe I can shop the play around in Seattle. Any ideas? connerhabibsocial@gmail.com

  4. Brendan September 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Love this post man! Our rooms are such reflections of our most intimate dreams, ambitions, hopes, obsessions. The connection between memory and space runs deep. Much of my sense of personal history does indeed feel indistinguishable from the space and objects from my childhood home and your post really reminded me of that. It also reminded me of how my own sexual awakening could only find honest expression within the safety of my bedroom – my outside expressions of sex were always somewhat inauthentic and more about social acceptance than actual desire. And within the safety of my room, my own sexual awakening also brought the realization of my individuality and solitude as well as the powerful impulses of my personal nature. It’s sometimes hard to believe that all of that occured within the confines of my tiny and somewhat generic bedroom. My whole inner life was born there.

    Have you read “The Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard? I struggled through it in college but I have just started to reread it after a couple of people suggested I give it another go. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few quotes from it – I feel that they relate your post so well.

    “We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”

    “For a knowledge of intimacy, localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates.”

    “If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. ”

    Thanks for sharing this piece of writing!

    • Conner Habib September 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

      Wow, thanks for the thoughtful response! Have not yet read Bachelard, and am intrigued. I love that you’ve been checking out my blog. :D

  5. Laura Scappaticci September 30, 2010 at 1:27 am #

    Can your sister’s three rooms come next? How about 0-9, poltergeist in the closet and you cutting your hand on the boxing bag. 9-14 Doritos and my period. Shaving my legs with no soap. 14-21 Same Lee fantasies. Well, probably more like kissing and hand holding, but still.

    I remember the carpet and the walls and the music, too. Love you Conner.

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