The man had only fifty dollars to make a room. Friends told the man to try yard sales. Or Craigslist, where things might be free. On a warm Sunday the man walked, found yards with things for sale in them, none of them for babies. On a chilly Saturday the man walked, further this time, found a bassinet carved in lovely old wood but the seller wanted most of what little the man had. Another yard, a crib, evidence of bedbugs. On Craigslist, a cheap and flimsy change table, free but the owner couldn’t deliver and the man had no car.

When the baby came home, new and outraged, the man showed her the cardboard box on which he had painted, in careful loving letters, her name. He showed her the mattress he had cut out of the foam from his futon, that had cost him nothing and was free of bedbugs. He knelt on the carpet to change her diaper, wrapped her in a swaddling cloth made from his favourite old t-shirt, and the baby calmed.

You could drown in a room. That old ziploc bag of pens, for example. Pens that smell and pens that highlight and pens stolen from that restaurant where tarted-up teenagers used to come to order drinks. Pens that produce ink sometimes, rarely, never. Pencils too, coloured ones worn down to the wood and who knows where the sharpener went. Stick your head in, put your nose against the cheap blue Bic, the kind you never see any more, the one with the bite marks. Try to breathe, drown.

Drown in the planter by the window, empty except for soil that nothing ever grew in. The reflection of headlights on its shell.

Drown in the dirt.

In baskets filled with boxes filled with crayons, glitter, fabric glue bought for a project and never used. In clipboards, those ones you bought to hold resumes, the kind that always bent the corners of the paper.

In tubs of halfway constructed Halloween costumes, drown in the moths.

In shoes that never fit, in clothes meant to be sold. In bottles of shampoo and hairspray used once and not loved, but saved just in case. In magazines from those years you told yourself you were trying not to be pretty. When you cut your hair and all those pictures, cut them out carefully as the magazines grew in piles of hope around the walls.

Drown in a house.

Through the glass door to where the coffee shop meets the rest of the building, to wherever that goes, a woman is waving her arms above her head. We are in this LEEDS-certified coffee shop to get me my organic vegan banana-chocolate chip muffin, and I am in a rush, and anyway she is wearing fur. But she is also old, so I nudge you toward her. I say, Is she? She has the kind of roller-curled hair that gets done in a salon for elderly women who wear full-length fur coats. She motions for us to open the door. She is yelling something. Through the glass we can hear her voice.

I go back to ordering my organic vegan banana-chocolate chip muffin while you open the door, while you shake your head as she hollers in Italian, pointing at something you can’t see. You try, like always.

Had she been in more distress we might have given it a little longer, maybe tried to find someone who spoke Italian. I might have forgotten about my organic vegan banana-chocolate chip muffin, might have taken more time, might have been late for work like the time years ago when I walked Sid across an intersection. Sid, old old Sid, it took us fifteen minutes to get through Georgia & Homer, cars honking in the green light. I took him to the post office and he tried to give me the coins in his pocket.

But this lady, it’s like there’s nothing we can do. You put up your hands and shrug I’m sorry. When I turn back, organic vegan banana-chocolate chip muffin in hand, she is gone.