1. Abode. Any living space is space living. We are living above the Jiffy Lube and there’s a distinct smell of oil and rotting meat. It’s August and we can’t take it anymore. The heat is unbearable and there’s not much left in the refrigerator. "Did you look under the couch" often used jocularly in a mock-formal tone.
2. Apartment: A living space consisting. Coexisting. Conjuring. Conning. There’s a circling, a wand of grief sprinkled over the furniture. You are telling me a story that involves figures I’ve never met. You are sure we went to a movie once then had coffee afterward. We are of one or more rooms about it, a building of wills and emotions, a complex unit of two.
3. Billet: Quarters in a private home assigned to shadows, to those photos of footsteps and military order; to “Anonymous.” You have decided to grow a mustache and look so much like your uncle that your grandmother holds out her hand and her eyes begin to water.
4. Boardinghouse: A house that provides. This is where I sleep with one eye open. The multiple latches and locks are broken. The arsonist that lives below smells of burned matches, sulfur and never looks me in eye. He stares at my combat boots. ”Those are boy’s shoes,” he says. We stand in the cramped kitchen, lean on the counter and watch the bagels quickly burn. There’s no cream cheese anyway; somebody used up the last of it. “Will you please not set this place on fire,” I ask “as long as I’m still living here?” He doesn't answer but sticks his head in the refrigerator, rearranges the odd compilation of pickles, margarine tubs, something that looks like chutney, fiercely believing that if he finds the cream cheese everything will be fine.
5. Bungalow: A small one- or one-and-a-half-story house. The kind we dreamed about as kids. We’d live in this bungalow with two or more rabbits, make Nutella crepes and learn to grow our own lemons. The bogeyman would be eaten by the Cabbage Patch Kids that guard the periphery and keep this land free. We would eat cheese and crackers, carve art out of orange rinds, learn foreign languages. Friends would come to visit but wouldn't stay. “They live in a bungalow,” they would say, underlining and italicizing the syllables; rolling their eyes.
6. Cabin: Originally, a small, crudely constructed one-story dwelling. One made of gingerbread or ready for graham cracker crumb paths. A place where ovens run too hot for comfort. This one has four identical beds; four identical plaid comforters. There is no antler decor anywhere. Often refers to memories we’ve left unassigned, amorphous. The scratches on the bathroom door are courtesy of our first dog, Caesar. The comic books we carefully wrapped in cardboard boxes. A watercolor of a boat that isn't. A vacation home may be quite large and psychically complex.
7. Caravan: A British English synonym for trailer. In Germany after a long day fighting with her boyfriend, our mother takes off in the brand-new-just-off-the-factory-lot Volkswagen camper, leaving the boyfriend to fend for himself in the red light district of Frankfurt. We are exhausted and lost in another city, end up at a camp site that's not on our map. Later, we hear voices, gypsies quietly encircling the van, discussing this or that. My brothers and I are stock still, listening. "Caravan camper...caravan camper... caravan camper...caravan camper” our mother repeats in a whisper from her sleep. My brothers and I sit up all night, gauging the length of the shadows pacing outside our window, wishing we were back in America.