Her life revolves around her desk. Literally so. All that is precious or urgent or insignificant is on her desk. It is not a regular desk. It's about the size of a single bed. Dark, polished wood. A dozen drawers and four closed shelves.
It has been the center of her existence and her petite apartment for as long as I have known her. Eight times out of ten that I visit her, she is seated on her desk.
Typing without looking, staring at the laptop screen with her mouth open, reading a book, smoking one of her 4-cigarettes-a-day with legs propped up on the desk, eating (when I visit I either sit cross-legged on her desk or sometimes pull a chair), sleeping, on phone, just sitting, walking about looking for something in the mountain of things that inhabit her desk, just staring or thinking or just.
Should I go on to enlist just some of what can be found on / in / under her desk?
Of course there is the ubiquitous laptop, a printer, three cans full of pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, markers, books borrowed from the library or friends, a telephone, an ash-box, CDs heard in the last one month, old Sunday supplements waiting to be read, notebooks, diaries, nail-filer, stacks of print-outs and photocopies of God-alone-knows-what, mail, a bowl of keys, a box of tissue, some shirt to be exchanged, souvenirs, post-its, framed photographs, hair-brush, deodorants, chewing gum, mint drops, medicines, dictionaries, spectacles, broken gadgets that can and will soon be repaired, maps, pamphlets, brochures and three diffused yellow light lamps picked up from holiday destinations.
It is an over-used, sparkling clean desk. No pencil scrawlings, cigarette burn marks, or shiny rounds left behind by very hot mugs.
I wouldn't have known her as well but for this desk. Now, my parents own this apartment where she lives. The tenants before her, who this desk really belongs to, were leaving the country and left the desk behind to my parents. I started spending time in this empty apartment next to the one we actually lived in till we found another lodger. She saw an advertisement in the papers and moved in. I cleared the apartment of whatever of my things had followed me there.
We saw very little of each other till one evening she called on us carrying a large-ish pile of books. She claimed they were mine but I had never seen them before. She then took me to her apartment and showed me the hidden chest she had discovered behind a column of drawers. She had found the books there and thought they were mine. It struck us together and we started pulling out all the drawers to find other hidden chests but there were none. We were disappointed at the missing pot of gold yet rolling in laughter.
I ain't much of a reader so I offered she could keep the books if she wanted to and she did. She offered me to stay for coffee, I did and never left.