“‘There’s a unicorn in the garden,’ he said. ‘Eating roses.’”
-James Thurber, “The Unicorn in the Garden”
Over the last few days, I’ve been helping set up my partner’s new apartment. On Saturday we came into empty rooms. Now there’s a bed, a table with the tools to make cookies. A chair there, she decides, and now it could be a reading nook. Empty rooms—the kind of empty when you’re just moving in, or leaving, vacuuming the floors to get back your security deposit—always surprise me a little. Their shape changes. Their space changes: it’s bigger, or smaller, somehow. Or maybe it’s me changing inside them.
Last Friday we started driving from Illinois to Massachusetts. The space of the car changed: confining, constricting, but also opening. The space of the sky breathed, larger and quieter and more alive, and I watched a ‘window’ in the clouds. I wonder how long it was. Ten miles? Twenty? A hundred? The sun came up, burning on the edge of the clouds, and I shaded my hand trying to watch. On a long drive I feel like I’m moving so fast. On a long drive I feel like I’m not moving at all.
I wonder how many of my thoughts are built on where I’m thinking. “Safety” means something, here, using this mattress as a desk while I sit on the floor. It means something else in a tent in the mountains. It means something else, floating on my back in the ocean, and something else in a classroom, and something else when a professor took my class outside and we sat on the steps, watching leaves fall. I lay down on the floor. I stand at the window. I wash dishes, and the water becomes a place, remembering the place it came from. I step outside, beneath branches and blowing leaves. There’s a whisper in the living room. There’s a rest on the front steps. There’s a unicorn in the garden, eating roses.