Thursday, June 09, 2022


I wound up the power cord I’d scavenged off the top of the office e-waste heap, and slid my MacBook into its lime green padded sleeve. I shoved both into a knapsack along with my water bottle and two pens, then glanced around at my emptied office.

Oh—those Wacom pens I’d salvaged were perched on the edge of my desk. Would I need them? Someone would. I shoveled them into the knapsack too.

This move was easier than the last office move, this final day simpler than the final day in New York, where we’d been finding homes for bookcases and drawing tables, where we’d puzzled over the Daily Planet front desk we could not ship from Broadway to Burbank. This time, we were moving a mere thousand steps away to an under-construction Frank Gehry puzzle, a craggy fortress arising from the shoulder of the 134, in a Hollywood real estate deal only business majors and commercial real estate agents understood. I wasn’t sure how long the Pointe had been home—pandemic had made all measures of time elastic and unreliable. The internet tells me we moved from New York to Burbank in 2016.

I’d spent the first four years of working at the Pointe being annoyed at the food options nearby—most of which consisted of a series of food trucks. How dare corporate America pry me out of Manhattan after I’d striven to settle down post-globetrotting? Then I’d spent the pandemic years trying to get out of my apartment, wistfully recalling the days someone else would prepare my lunch, even if it was fried meat and cheese from a diesel-powered portable deli in a quirky suburb built for the creation of movies and TV.

My office walls are bare now, the cow art already packed up in crates tucked under my bed at home, but the nails were still present, giving the walls a Pinhead look, as if my walls were alive and ready to stab the next inhabitant. I sort of hoped they would. No one else but me had ever used this office adorned with a Sergio Aragonés door, an image of Alfred E. Neuman.

And yet, was this departure really so different from any other departure? I put on my knapsack and walked to the door. Chris Conroy came over to snap a photo of me in front of my nameplate just before I pulled out my name and crumpled it up.

I stared back at the empty office—all mine. My next office would be an open desk, no walls, nowhere for the cows, no more furtive conversations behind the sliding Sergio door. I thought about putting on my 40-pound backpack in hotel rooms around the world, taking that last quick check for a stray charger or toothbrush. I’d never actually forgotten anything in the years I’d lived in hotels night after night, and certainly the stakes were lower when my new accommodation was across the street. What was there to say about an office we’d left two years ago, rushing out for a few weeks that turned into a month, then a year, then finally forever?

“See you on the other side,” I called out to the only other colleagues within earshot, the last two standing, the only two who’d shown up day after day when no one was expected to come to work.

I left my key in the door, caught the elevator downstairs, swapped out my entry card for “gym only” (a girl can dream), and left the building. I stood outside and looked up, up at the vibrantly blue sky beyond the imposing anvil of a structure. What a grand place to be housed, even if it wasn’t quite overlooking the Ed Sullivan Theater like my previous digs.

How did it feel, I thought, testing my inner compass. Was I in exile? Homeless? The compass was searching out North, but unable to settle.

I flashed back on packing up and leaving a room in Khartoum, Sudan, where I’d spent a few days vomiting after an Ethiopian Isuzu accident had left me with cracked ribs and a lung infection. The toilet hadn’t really worked, so I’d had to rig it to flush every time I threw up. And I thought back on the morning I’d stood outside my Bali bungalow, waiting for the airport shuttle. And then the moment I’d stood by the side of the road in Mali, anxious to flag down the bus so I could move on from my lovely room in Sevaré.

But I started to struggle, because as I tried to remember the times I’d departed, the times I’d arrived kept crashing in and hijacking my memories.

Walking off the ship in Cape Town to start my journey north to Cairo. Boarding the Direct Kiwi container ship in San Pedro for my first glorious epic trip across the surface of an ocean. Watching the salt flats of Bolivia unfold in front of the Land Cruiser as we approached. Showing my passport and walking across the border from Spain to Morocco from the enclave of Melilla. Pulling three months of gear along in a roller bag in the Kuwait Airport, Frankie there to meet me. “Are you Marie? You must be Marie.”

I was trying hard to channel regret, nostalgia, and pessimism, but my brain wasn’t having it.

What’s next? I guess we’ll see soon enough, in that craggy cliff-like building over the 134.

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