• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 10
Image by

The Library of Things

I am from the “heart of it all,” where single family homes are islands surrounded by oceans of grass. Where garages full of tools—park the car on the drive—hide away the lawn mower, smelling of gasoline and fresh-cut clippings. A wall of plastic tubs: Christmas lights, extension cords, boxes of rope, camping gear in rucksacks too big to be practical and too sentimental to throw out. Bags of fertilizer and empty flower pots live beside bits and bobs saved “just in case,” because “you never know.” It’s easy to become a packrat when you’re not forced to decide what to keep and what to chuck away.

In London they have libraries of things—rent a sewing machine for a day, a steam cleaner for a week, a cordless lawn mower for those city dwellers with a patch of grass to call their own. The seldom-used clunky things, shared en masses—a pasta maker, garden shears, a paper shredder. Take them on the Tube, up the escalator and home to finish a chore, work on a project, get on with administrating your life.

We didn’t have a patch of grass in our rented one-bedroom ex-council flat in Bermondsey. We barely had space to breathe, the bed filling the bedroom wall to wall, like a sleeping car on a one-way train to the South Bank. You walked across Tower Bridge to work; I taught English from the tiny table in the lounge, my students half a world away.

I wanted to know if we’d fit well in close quarters, if we could occupy the same space without cutting off each other's sentences. I wanted to curl around you like a melody you can’t get out of your head, like a secret alleyway shortcut from here to there. I left the heart of it all for you, on a hunch. You see, the library of things doesn’t lend out time machines nor crystal balls. The future trickles out one day at a time for hoarders and minimalists alike.