When I was nine, I had a chest of drawers in my room. It was a massive squat thing, missing handles on three of its four drawers, the white paint had peeled off in big piebald patches, and the front right leg had sheared away so that it so that tilted forward, bowing to you with a kind of rickety courtesy.
My Dad had dragged it out of an attic somewhere and had been going to smash it up for fire wood, but I insisted I wanted it instead. I think he only let me keep it because it was the sole object in the known universe that could get me to put my clothes away.
My parents urged me to let them get rid of it. It was ugly and termite-chewed and it gave off a faint smell of damp loam that soaked into my socks. My Mum and Dad kept offering to buy me a new chest of drawers, but I wouldn’t let them, because this one was mine in a way a new one could never be. I had claimed it. I was a kid, and I had no money and no power, the only things I could really possess were the things no one else valued, so I determined to build my kingdom from them.
By virtue of no one else wanting it, the old chest of drawers had passed out of their world, and into mine. It was subject to my imagination.
My fantasy for the chest was straightforward. I wanted to be kind to it, to treat it with the dignity befitting it’s former majesty. I brought my Thundercats t-shirts to it like bearing tribute to an old king, fallen on hard times, huddled around a trash-can fire under Southwark Bridge.
I wish I could remember what had happened to that chest of drawers, but it has passed out of even my world now. Maybe it went to a dump, and maybe some other kid salvaged it from that place and gave it a few more weeks of love and reverence. Most likely my Dad did it into firewood in the end. But even if that chest of drawers is no longer subject to me, I’m still subject to it, because I’m still doing what it taught me.
I write a lot about discarded things. My fancies for them now are a little more elaborate: empty eggshell eyes and broken mirror doorways, landfill palaces and demolition-site killing fields, but at heart it’s the same thing. I just make a little space in my world for the furniture no one else wants in theirs: patch up its paintwork and stick a book under it’s broken leg, and then bring it tribute for a while.