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  • When we began there, at East 84th Street, mine was a room at the end of the hall that seemed dark and long through two year old eyes. The room faced east, always flooded with light in the morning. Two beds lined one wall, joined by a changing table on the other. The babysitter slept with us, and there were navy blue bolsters and spreads on the beds. David and I were an always-pair, with the faint smell of boy just starting to change my world. From baby to boy happens fast, at least in the nose, even before the hormones and hockey sticks, and it did then, seeping in before the walls went up. When the polyester hand of the matching navy bedspreads gave way to the girlified pink gingham of my own choosing, in my own "room", a slivered third of what had been our open playground. Now, a place each for sleep, for work, for play. The walls rose, breaking family life into necessary pieces.

    Forget playing that required jumping, running, swinging, throwing. No place in a New York City apartment for any of that. The first third of the room was clogged with two desks (though David was too young for homework yet), a brown area rug, a wooden toy bench, and a huge plastic whale that held the rest of the cars, blocks and things that made the time pass. The other two thirds were our bedrooms; narrow corridors that held a bed and not much else. I was the reader, so mine was narrowed further with a bookshelf.

    New York City, circa. 1980 and perhaps always. Make enough space out of not enough space. Other kids had lofts to share (of which we were always jealous), bunk beds, three in a room, sleeping in "maid's quarters" sandwiched in off the kitchen near the roaches. We were luckier than most, with a thin slice of space at the top of the T-shaped wall, over which David and I could talk, or he could menace by throwing over stuffed toys or even sharp-ass matchbox cars to hit me on the other side, unable to resist his own boy-ness.

    The light was never the same.
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