There must be some rule that says all institutions will be constructed of cinderblocks. It lends a consistent, familiarity to the halls of academe that is depressive, yet comforting at the same moment. Cinderblocks painted some shade of off white; blackboards at the front of the room, a clock at the back. Those awful desks with the arm attached, or, in some rooms, tables and chairs–far preferable.
My desk is in the corner of such a room. Attic space, it probably was once, before the need to house graduate teaching assistants surfaced. Now, it’s office space. Roughly twelve desks a room, wedged together and in corners, a few bookshelves thrown in here and there for good measure. Metal, in most cases, like the desks. Metal, and heavy, and damn do they hurt when you bash your knee against one, or when the drawer sticks and you smash your thumb in your efforts to open it.
Heavy desks with a file drawer on one side, sometimes two. Ample surface space to spread out papers for grading, articles for reading, or to fill with decorations if you use a laptop for all grading, and have no need to spread the papers out.
I’ve had four different desks in my time here–one shared with others, three that were my own. It’s strange, because this past year is the first where I’ve actually liked my office space. It was my last year–my last funded year, anyway.
Maybe that’s why it’s been so difficult, to make the effort to go and pack up my things. Maybe, if I were actually done with this place, it wouldn’t be such a challenge to box up my decorations, my books, file away old student work, smile over cards and notes forgotten in the back of the drawer. I’m not actually done with this place, just moving to another temporary location. A location where I won’t even have even my cramped corner of cinder block office space to call my own.