A Desk of One’s Own

By. Shaun Hogan

Until recently I lacked something very basic. Following Victoria Woolf’s injunction, I found a room of my own and stocked it with standard bedroom fare––a bed, some pens, a bookshelf––things that gave my space the aura of work and suggested I was actually doing something marginally productive. But I lacked a desk, and the truth is that, without one, forced to write atop cushions and sheets, producing anything seemed a breach of physical limits.

To begin with, when I moved in there was scarcely enough space to sit cross-legged on the floor, much less to fit a full-sized work station.  I knew this from the start and yet doggedly ignored it. I convinced myself it was a weak truth––benign, docile.  But time has a way of plumping a bad seed, and soon this puppy morphed into a ragged-toothed, unrelenting fact, hounding me on those nights I yearned for raised flatness.

I had determined that the space allowed for a desk no more than 30” in width. This left me with few options besides a bedside table. And I thought, If I could just find one tall enough…

Because already I had one that was too short. One afternoon last spring, I carried a collapsable chair to my room and set it down by the little thing; I cracked my fingers, opened my notebook and clicked down the ballpoint, only to be so pricked by a sense of The Ridiculous, as though I’d been sentenced back to the baby table, that I had to call it quits.

It should go without saying that my willingness to endure life without a desk was in the final stages of evaporation. Beleaguered, I would read about certain writers and the implements they required to work and grow more and more despondent. It was a humble request, dammit!  Unlike Drabble and Thackery, I wasn’t asking for a hotel room in which to do my bidding. A very small table, a solid piece to write on: give me that and I’d shut-up forever.

Then one afternoon, outside a storefront in Kensington Market, I noticed a 1950‘s-era school desk. It was a clunky mother, but narrow––just narrow enough. The seat was fastened with thick metal poles to the top, making it near-impossible to sit on/in without dislocating a hip––a genuine booby trap for education. In minutes I had locked my bike to a nearby rack, paid, hoisted the 80lb desk/chair combo onto my shoulder, and dispatched for home.

And now I have a desk.  Albeit an awkward one, this desk brings me endless joy and optimism for the future. I look at it and tear up.  It’s so beautiful, all shiny-legged and top-worn from the boredom-induced scratches of bygone decades. And so what if because of its small size my face hangs uncomfortably close to the wall, as though I’m studying the brushstrokes of an invisible little painting: it’s a desk and it’s in my room and I own it and, by God, I think the thing actually works!