Wednesday, March 14, 2007

the floors of my youth

I grew up on a wide variety of cheap carpets. At home we had only a rough looped beige pile or budget astroturf, but as I soon found out, there was an unexplored world of textiles outside my door.

At school it was the gym. Yes, the gym. Dodgeball and tag were performed on a flooring too thin to prevent a bruise and yet just abrasive enough to remove the outer layers of skin in enormous curls if slid upon. As an added bonus, it collected an amazing palimpsest of smells that would be released just as our stretching exercises began, my face inches away.

There was the church basement, patterned in such a way that one felt drawn into tracing the lines with short steps, endlessly making 30 degree turns and bumping into friendly strangers. It was matched poorly at the seams, revealing to me that while god had infinite power, our church sometimes missed the details.

There was the flowers and fruit at the family-friendly pizza restaurant. Confetti and streamers at the arcade. And the mysterious piles at the houses of playmates, hiding the grit and dust of other people, yielding to my exploration as we laid facedown on the beanbag chairs, our foreheads on the floor.

As suburban American progeny, I can only imagine what it would have been like to grow up on the narrow wood planks of Manhattan, or Mexican tile, or the earth of some third world country. My floors were soft and cocooning, absorbent of moisture and sound, forgiving. I could be careless about how I fell to the floor in front of the TV, picking at the threads beneath, listening to the slight noise as it gave beneath my fingers.

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