work     biography     essays & press     contact


Giovanna Calvino — At Home, 2008

We had been awaiting the death of Marina’s next-door neighbor for several years, but he seemed to have no intention of dying in the near future. His apartment, adjacent to hers, had the same layout, was its identical twin. If he would only die and put his apartment up for sale, it would open a world of infinite possibilities for her, and for me. I did not live with Marina, but as her closest friend, I had a say in all matters.

Home renovation is one of the most unpleasant things I have ever experienced, but I adore the initial phase, when you get to imagine how to remake a space. I spend entire nights on The New York Times real estate website, studying the floor plans of apartments for sale and improving them in my mind. Marina has also admitted to this perversion, which reassures me, but makes me worry about her. I have translated this text into English, but even in the Italian original I used the words layout and floor plan. That’s because my only direct personal experience of home renovation took place in New York and the trauma has branded these words on my psyche.

But back to us...

Not to take anything away from Marina’s beautiful apartment, but the most beautiful part of it was the part that wasn’t there: the apartment still occupied by the neighbor who refused to give up the ghost. In these last five years, the next door neighbor has proven to be more resilient in his wheelchair than the foundations of Marina’s adult life. As some of the crucial elements  of that life have given way, she has—for now—put aside the expansionist project and embraced the home that is actually hers. She has moved furniture around, covered the walls anew; she has swung her doors wide open to the tourbillion of a new life. There were cocktail parties and soirees as I witnessed impotently the invasion of my familiar territory. That intimate space filled suddenly with aliens, landed out of the blue, the product of new complicities born from one day to the next. Until one day, I was usurped and the chromatic harmony of the apartment upset by three blondes, all Marina’s new best friends. Thankfully the trio of blondes proved ephemeral and today only two of them remain, with colorings that blend perfectly with the mustard yellow of the foyer and the orange of the kitchen counter.But I am not one who easily forgives, and I have in the meantime secretly cultivated the trust of my downstairs neighbor.

This new alliance is ripe with opportunities that will leave Marina and her followers awestruck.

I could, for instance, convince my neighbor to sell me her apartment, which would make my place a jaw-drooping duplex. Or I could marry her banker brother and purchase the whole building. Or, if all else fails, I could sell my apartment to her for a handsome price, and move in with Marina, into the guest room she doesn’t have.