House within a house, Alina Lupu, 2017

She needed to lease out her apartment. Short on cash, she chose a short-term rental service and started clearing up the space of personal belongings.

It wasn’t the first time she moved. She couldn’t quite remember when it started though. One solid singular event. Even if it’s said that the first trigger to feeling is the first time in a long line. For her it had all long time ago turned into a blur. Was she twelve then?

While folding fresh laundry and packing it up in the hallway closet she tried to make an inventory of sorts which comprised of all the rooms she’d ever laid her body in to rest. One long string, like an accumulation of spaces, building themselves one from another, like annexes, rather than islands. The feeling that she was in fact inhabiting them all at the same time came over her whenever she needed to leave one space behind. It felt as if she was never that far removed from her first room, somehow carving out tunnels from one to the next.

One bedroom turned spare room in her aunt’s office building, in another city, among the crates of office supplied and the fold out couch on which she fell asleep, with her mother on one side and her younger sister on the other, fighting to stay still while the car lights flashed across the ceiling in the neighboring parking lot. Turned one bedroom again, this time belonging to a cousin who had bought the apartment with money raised while out to sea. He immigrated to America, lived in Seattle with his new American wife and never came back. Turned another one bedroom still, yet different neighborhood, same city.

Surrounded as she was by bedcovers and pillow cases, fresh, dried, she couldn’t do much else, on that random afternoon, before she prepared to rent out her apartment, but drift back and forth between the rooms of her childhood and adult life, lulled by the comfort of having to reassert her own presence in room after room which held little to no memory of her once she was gone. Though she could still somehow recall a paper note a friend had left in a sleeve of the bedroom wallpaper in her first house, which lived its life well beyond her parents and herself had moved. When visiting the new tenants a year after, she snuck back to the bedroom to find that piece of paper which let itself be pried out from the wall. In time the house of many rooms grew.

Three bedroom, shared with three other girls. One having slept with the other one’s boyfriend. She remembers the one betrayed. Sharing a bed with her, then, in the middle of the night, after having fidgeted and wrestled with the thought she bolted out the bed and in the other room to catch the traitor by her lovely locks and pull as far as she could muster.

One bedroom, same betrayed girl, this time with another lover.

Two bedroom, shared, her own boyfriend and another friend.

Two bedroom, shared, her own boyfriend and another friend, her sister too.

One bedroom, just the two of them, for what felt like a long time.

Movement was in her. She went on to fold the shirts, paying careful attention to the bending of the sleeves and the way the middle would crease through, all neat and reassuring. Then pants. Then skirts. She would go on to pack her personal belongings well and lock them all in the closet with a key. In there went her documents, her pictures. She couldn’t do much about her books. But she digressed.

Two bedroom, shared, no living-room, a classmate. Another country. Three bedroom, 5m2, shared with the landlord and another tenant that lived upstairs in an independent room. Up there she had no bathroom of her own, so she had to always come down the stairs whenever she fancied a pee.

Two bedroom, living room and a studio, shared. Anna was depressed and used to always turn on all the lights across the house. For colder months she owned a daylight lamp that she would start, on top of all the other bulbs and lamps. She never invited her for dinner, or lunch or breakfast and one evening broke down accusing her that she had used her white wine, got as a special present from a long away aunt, to make pasta sauce with. It was the last drop. They lived the next there months like a divorced couple, barely being able to say a word to each other. The humiliation had reached insurmountable levels. She confessed that she was not in a good place to make friends.

Four bedrooms, alone, a fluke. She panicked and asked a well mannered kid of barely twenty, who came with his mother, to move into one of the spare ones. They lasted in polite company until the lease ran out.

Two bedroom. Now. As she looked back she amassed a regular estate. 26 rooms.