My Life on Floors
Gravity must have a stronger pull on childhood. It was all board games and sleepovers and action figure scenes and Legos and naptime and butterfly stretching and duck duck goose and crisscross applesauce.
Adult life, not so much. It’s all barstools and car seats and office chairs and Ikea whatever. Especially in New York and its shoebox-sized studios and walk-in closets converted to four-bedroom railroad sublets with their impersonal, Swiffer-neglected pre-war hardwood so small it barely accommodates your feet.
My roommate refuses to sit on our sofa. During Family Feud, I recline on the cushions with adolescent nonchalance, and he squats on a little foam roller. He calls it “the couch.”
My two-year-old niece sits in my lap. I use my hand to propel us in circles on the hardwood, spinning until I’m nauseated. “Again!” squeals Beatrice.
My little sister and I lay face-up on the driveway and Beatrice traces our bodies with purple sidewalk chalk. Mal and I giggle as Beatrice clumsily outlines us, unwittingly tickling our neck with the chalk and drawing over our hair. “All done!” she says. Mal and I stand up to admire and praise the shapeless purple nonsense on the blacktop.
I don’t know where my dog learned this, because I definitely didn’t teach her. When I lay on my back in my parents’ living room, Molly straddles me like she’s riding a horse and stays as long as I’ll pet her.
My parents’ basement, like so many in Midwestern suburbia, is a kid’s utopian carpetscape, a bastion of juvenile privacy and play. The cream-colored carpet is splotched with decades’ worth of stains, brownish-purple, purplish-brown, unidentifiable.
That floor hosted my big sister’s balance beam until she got too tall and kicked the ceiling mid-walkover. I used to step on my little sister’s back for rare cracks and on her tush for common laughter. Later I unsuccessfully tried to feel up Erin Davis during All the Pretty Horses.
Matt McJoynt and I, both WWF fans, assembled a makeshift ring out of papasan chair cushions, where we choreographed wrestling matches and proudly performed them for my parents. Matt went on to be a football player; I a ballerina.
I break. Dance, that is. Except I injured my knee and can’t get on the floor right now and really don’t want to talk about it.
On Yom Kippur we always fasted, went to synagogue, slept, and complained. Mom and Dad forbid us from TV and other technology, so the family always convened on the living room floor for a game of Clue. My dad, one of the most pleasant and least competitive people on the planet, always forgot how to play from year to year but somehow always won.
“I’ll guess…Ms. Peacock,” seeming tentative, almost bashful, adjusting his glasses and squinting from the board to his scorecard and back again, “with the lead pipe…in the conservatory.” Right, of course. Hours later, we’d break the fast with pepperoni pizza.
We spent nearly every weekend night in early high school in my friend Zach’s basement, adapting various sports to his basement’s irregular dimensions and various hazards: metal pipes, rogue tacks, an unstable coffee table.
There was, among others: hand soccer, played on your knees; a version of hockey we called “Jiggy”; and B’s Basement, named after a local band, a variation of baseball where you’d hit a foam ball with a ruler.
While other kids played poker and went to parties and started drinking, we were in Zach’s basement cross-checking each other into his TV. Sweaty, smelly, and pubescent, we left each night with holes in our socks and sweatpants, our elbows and knees cheerfully marred with rug-burn raspberries.
When Zach moved later in high school, we went to his new basement to drink Colonial Club vodka from a plastic bottle and make out with girls in his laundry room.
During a recent audit of my Instagram, I found photos of myself at my office:
- In athletic shorts, tubes socks, and nonprescription Terry Richardson-ian glasses sitting on floor pulling one foot to outstretch my leg over my head.
- Facedown, splayed out. The photographer’s caption: “Happppppppppy Monday!”
- Wrestling with our Head of Product.
- Lying down before our holiday party, tipping a top hat next to a smiling coworker who’s miming paws like a cat. One comment: “Ew people walk on that floor!”
- Spooning an intern’s dog.
The best sleep I ever get — spontaneous, consuming, complete — is on the floor of my parents’ house, amid years’ worth of collie hair softly coagulated into the carpet as my dad mindlessly hums the Beach Boys over the sink’s running water.