Jamie’s Old Room

I am in Klamath Falls again.

In a room with a plain square whitewood table and four chairs and a sofa bed. I am guessing they came from Ikea.

There’s a game card on the table called Criosphinx. A gristle-coloured torso, with a small horned head, rearing from the four-legged animal body.

I googled criosphinx: it’s a sphinx with a ram’s head.

It’s Jamie’s old room. How different my children are! As soon as he had finished college and moved to Los Angeles, Mikey never cared about his room. He took most of his stuff away and put other things he wanted to keep in a storage box and asked Lonnie and Elsa to keep it somewhere. Hadley was the same.

Eventually their rooms were painted and began to be used by grandchildren and soon filled up with other bits and pieces.

But Jamie was different. “Please don’t change my room,” he said. He still calls Lonnie and Elsa unexpectedly sometimes and says he is coming back for a few days.

So there’s still a Chemical Brothers poster on the wall.

And H.R. Giger’s artwork for the Alien films.

And shelves with graphic novels and games.

And gifts, probably, that he’s left behind.

Like the prose poem Desiderata, nicely transcribed in a old-fashioned typeface.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

But beside where it says “You are a child of the universe, you have a right to be here,” someone has pinned up an old rolodex card, with an arrow pointing to the text and the words:

You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.

What else?

There’s an original hardback edition of Danzy Senna’s novel Caucasia, signed “With Love from Lonnie and Elsa. xx 1998”.

The room has another role now. It is the Games Room.

Elsa and Lonnie’s oldest child, Harvey, remained in Klamath Falls and trained to be a teacher like his dad. His son, Kyle, is 12 years old and one of his passions is the Yu Gi Oh card trading game. Jamie is Kyle’s game guru.

Yu Gi Oh, I was told, is the world’s most successful trading card game.

I know all this because I stayed for over two hours in that room. I watched a Yu Gi Oh anime video on the old Dell desktop and leafed through a brand-new Yu Gi Oh manga that had been left beside it, reading it from right to left.

I find the manga iconography weird and fascinating. The children with big round eyes and tiny pointed noses.

That was my way of being with the boy who lived and grew up here and who is my son.

My way of spending more time with him.

Lonnie and Elsa are two of the people I like and admire most in the world.

They understand people so well, they always seem to know what to do.

I have told Maureen, of course, how they took in our children after Julie died, helped me to continue my career as a working journalist.

Maureen was at first rather irreverent about my trust in Lonnie and Elsa.

“Perhaps they are control freaks”, she said, “who wanted to raise their nephews and nieces their way and get you out of the picture.”

That shocked me a little, and she saw that and never said that again.