The other day a friend and I were hanging around in her Dupont Circle apartment, which is furnished in trendy, geometric, sensory-deprivation style. We were perched on the juxtaposed vanishing points of her cleanlined, oatmeal-colored conversation pit when, suddenly, a blueprint for my personal hell sprang from my forehead and projected itself onto her tapioca-colored Parson's table.
The schematics were simple: two levels. On the upper level meandered 99 percent of the underworld's population, ranging from felons to people who didn't refill ice-cube trays. Their furniture was layered with mold. They looked uncomfortable.
But on the lower level, the truly loathsome monsters -- righteous vegetarians, for example -- writhed in agony. Their only furniture was a vast expanse of perfectly square cream-colored ottomans.
I recall this vision . . . painfully . . . because I want the world, and especially the statisticians who design the stuff, to know that not everyone wants a decor that looks like a story problem from Geometry 101. There are still a few people who get a jolt of ennui when confronted by stackable storage cubes of enameled white pine, who feel guilty about abandoning their coats to freestanding closets of scrubbed plexiglass.
Some people get agoraphobia in "bright, airy, open spaces" that are created by removing everything that has irregular sides, or is smaller than a refrigerator, and painting the rest white.
Some people like apartments like mine. I have 3 million objects in my place that are bigger than a fist, but smaller than a grapefruit. This mass of broken pencil sharpeners, hotel ashtrays, whiffle balls and overdue books swirls and surges through my dark, airless, closed space like a friendly sea. On a typical evening I fasten myself to my decaying oxblood-colored recliner and watch it float by, grabbing only what I need and letting the rest eddy around.
It gives me a nameless satisfaction to watch these shifting tides, the ebb and flow of Band-Aid boxes, Corningware single-service dishes and pepper shakers shaped like little cacti. To know that my ocean of Yahtzee scorepads could swallow a small civilization . . . it is a taste of immortality.
I get lonesome of my apartment when I am stuck in some blinding flat dotted with blank-faced clocks and plexiglass wineracks. I wonder why it is that homo sap tries so hard to divorce himself from his cluttered heritage. tI try to decide what the foundings fathers, with their dreams of the nation's fruitful, cluttered future, would think of interiors that resemble an underexposed print of Rick's Place from "Casablanca," and I get a headache.
My knuckles turn white as I tighten my grip on my octagonal glass full of clean-lined mineral water.
Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I race back to my place, and a pair of sunglasses with one lens missing floats over and nuzzles against my check. It's all right, it's all right, I tell myself, and as if to reassure me, the nosepiece drops off the glasses and into a fishbowl that contains nine guppies, five living. I am home.