The two-by-fours I used to build this desk once belonged to our neighbors on Rampart Street. I never knew them well, but when they moved out they offered us what they had left. These particular boards comprised makeshift doorframes in their apartment—like our apartment, theirs came with no doors.

Most residences you find in New Orleans are shotgun-style homes—long, narrow layouts, one room wide and four or five rooms deep, sometimes mirrored by an adjacent apartment to form a “shotgun double.” The design is ideal to battle heat, with high ceilings and a straight shot between the front and back doors. The heat is so intense here and the air so damp and lifeless that effective ventilation requires as few obstructions to air flow as possible, so shotgun rooms open up one into another, often with no hallways and no pesky doors.

Even if you have not lived in a shotgun with roommates you might imagine that along with the liberated breeze wafting from one room to the next are the sounds and smells and the existential presence of your cohabitator(s). We had two long-term guests crash at Rampart Street apartment, neither of whom kept a day-job schedule like Akasha and I. This resulted for our guests in many unlit creeping trips to the kitchen through our room while we were falling asleep, and for us many long, quiet leg stretches as we stepped silently over their sprawled bodies while they slept through the mornings on the floor.

There was also very little sex. For anybody. For obvious reasons. These are the types of things that, in the age of air conditioning, induce the desire for doors.

Shotgun houses are much more suited for couples than they are for roommates, and because of this, for a while, our neighbors had far less need for doors. One afternoon the young lady of the house told me the reason they were moving out was because what had begun as an innocent Craigslist roommate arrangement became a love affair they couldn’t sustain. She had returned to Louisiana from a year traveling in Mexico and could not go back to her hometown Baton Rouge without seriously compromising her dignity and psychological well-being, so she dropped into New Orleans. She had auditioned several potential housemates and the one she settled on seemed the sanest—a movie lighting technician from New York on hiatus to work on a film script. The two became quick friends, then lovers. I imagine the doors he had built to accommodate her when she first move in stayed open for a while. Then they realized that what they felt for each other was serious, and they were both too young for anything like what they were getting into. The doors closed again, and they went their separate ways.

I built this desk last week, and after five months in New Orleans I finally have a place to sit and write. Akasha and I have a new apartment (farewell Rampart Street! farewell mice, roaches and shitty fatass landladies!), and one of its most appealing points is a room I quickly recognized and claimed as an office. I have grand plans for it, and a desk is a start. Its raw wood finish doesn’t do much to repel red wine, which I’m sure will become an issue at some point, but I’m reticent to stain it or coat it with veneer. It doesn’t have the aged or “distressed” look of, say, my bookcase, because unlike the lumber I used for that project this wasn’t gutted out of some hurricane-ravaged house. Still, though, it certainly qualifies as reused, whether it looks the part or not. When I sit down to my desk I can think of the door frames it once made, the doors that swung open and shut on them, and if I’m feeling sentimental I can imagine my old neighbors peeking past this very wood at each other, having just moved in together, wondering with nervous excitement whether the other also feels the rushing onset of smittenness.

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