The Flat

prompt from my online writing course:

Describe a place that was meaningful for you, positive or negative. It could be a positive emotion or a negative emotion that you have for the place. Rules:

  1. No dialogue.
  2. No describing emotions.
  3. No backstory.

A thin mattress, set on a thin metal frame, served as the living room couch. A lockable metal trunk, forest green, served as a bench. Inside were bags of flour, and inside those were tiny lines that crawled.

A dusty metal bookshelf stood in the corner, with used books: a Wendell Berry novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and a small meditation on how to practice lovingkindness. Guides to “Scorpions and Spiders of the Sub-Sahara,” with their real-life photographs, were not displayed with spines out. They hid in the box a pocket-sized Bible came in.

Some doors were missing doorknobs; loops of yarn were tied to the holes. The toilet, too, was missing its knob; there was yarn in the tank, looped around the handle. The shower head emitted a thin stream of cold water, though in the baked month of January, the water was lukewarm.

Flip-flops stayed at either entrance to the flat. The floors, gritty before and after each mopping, smelled like lemon. Sometimes the toilet tank was filled with the cloudy water leftover from mopping or washing clothes, so when you flushed the toilet, it smelled like diluted cleaning solution. A trail of chalky sediment lined the bright blue plastic bucket after each pour.

In the kitchen, a trash bag hung over a pipe on the wall, and a calendar hung above that. The calendar was peppered with brown spots from the brown bugs that congregated around the trash bag. Spots freckled the shelves of canned goods, too.

Taped to the cement of the walls were handwritten excerpts from Psalm 42:


Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

The lettering was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, rainbow.

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