The trees swallowed us whole.
Towering over us with gnarled limbs, they looked more ominous than the usual skyscrapers. At least buildings were predictable. They had walls and stairs. There were humans in them. But who knew what kinds of creatures lived in those trees? And on top. And under.
When buildings catch on fire, the firemen come. When trees catch on fire, it’s every dung beetle for himself.
Buildings make sense. Nature is, well, fucked.
Soon, the trees gave way to a box in the middle of a clearing. But this was no ordinary box. It had water from a water tank; a toilet that wrapped human waste in foil and never fully disposed of them, allowing the stench to marinate and rise and loiter like an asshole; and heat produced by magic. Modern comforts aside, the box was still the only thing between us and Nature with all its fuckery.
You’re probably wondering why we traded our box of an apartment for this box of a house, even for a few days, given that we’re totally not Outside People. Temporary insanity? Maybe. A sense of curiosity? Sure. Desperation? Pretty much.
On one stress-induced spiral before bed, my fingers had led me to a website I’d ogled several times before: a magical neighborhood of tiny houses called Getaway. Located near major cities, its whole premise is to “get away” from everything, namely the internet and all the things that keep us tethered to our regular lives. There’s even a lock box to keep phones tucked away for the entirety of your stay.
I booked the house for a random Tuesday and Wednesday, right before Christmas, which meant we had to drive upstate to get our few days of tiny living in, then turn right back around and drive back down through New York City so we could get to Virginia by Christmas Eve.
Somehow I’d convinced Franco to go along with it. Perhaps it had something to do with my daily diatribes about working too much and not writing enough and losing sleep (not because of our brand new, fresh puppy, of course, because the puppy is never to blame) and so many happy hours and the holidays coming up and having to go south to see all the families and Oh My God If You Talk To Me About Balance One More Time I’m Throwing Away Your Nintendo Switch.
We spent most of it in untethered bliss. We read. We drew. We played cards. We built a fire. We sat by the fire. We talked. And stared at each other. My God, how we stared at each other. We got bored. So. Fucking. Bored. Even our puppy was bored. He’d set foot on the snow-covered ground, take a piss, and stare out into the nothing. Like, there was no one around for him to solicit unbridled love and joy from other than his parents, so he turned back around to go sulk indoors.
It is here that the tiny people believe true living happens. After you shed yourself of your tethered ways, a new you is supposed to emerge. The you that can appreciate the wind blowing, the trees swaying, the squirrel chomping on a nut, the deer staring at you from afar, frozen in fear and paranoia. Perhaps had we stayed a little bit longer this new me would have emerged. But two days aren’t enough to even get used to sleeping in the quiet, much less change your entire way of life.
Or are they?
My bedtime routine often involves falling asleep to tiny house videos on YouTube while saying, “Look, Franco, this is our future!” while he says, “Please shut up you’re crazy if you think I’d ever live in that thing but you go ahead and enjoy while I check out your Instagram of tiny-house living from the comforts of my luxurious lifestyle—the luxurious part being the fact that it has running water.”
What really grinds his gears about it all is knowing that he’d be the one doing all the boring, dirty parts while I go blog about how awesome it is. That is, for about a couple days until I go crazy with the lack of takeout and un-New York-ness of it all.
Which is fair.
Save a total change in our personalities, our tiny apartment in Queens is the closest we’ll get to tiny living.
It’s probably a good thing. I mean, it’s sensible. It keeps me grounded. The stability affords me the luxury of being insensible with my work.
Still, I’ve applied some tiny concepts to my life, like using energy and water sparingly, customizing the apartment so it looks like no one but us could ever live in it, not buying anything I don’t absolutely need, decluttering regularly, and building a life that makes room for the work, and not the other way around.
It means editing life down to the people and things that fulfill.
It means knowing I have enough.
It also means saying NO a lot in order to make room for nothingness, so that I’m listening to myself when I’m telling myself to say YES.
I’m now a year and some change removed from my glimpse into tiny living, and a few months into a still-imbalanced existence. I’m at peace with it, though—it’s just how I’m wired. The cool thing about it is that the writing now outweighs the not writing.
And I have to say, it’s awesome.