The Star Fort

I was unemployed at the time. You had just started a new job, walking tourists around the harbor in a red, white, and blue polo shirt. You had been worried about the rent. You were right to be worried. I was also worried about the rent, but I was more concerned about you, the back of your mind as you walked tourists around the harbor in your red, white, and blue shirt, pointing at buildings and tall ships and, I imagined, the occasional duck.

I wished I could buy us a home, or maybe build one. I had no idea how to build a house, or anything really. I had always been afraid of hammers and nails. I was no good, but I knew I would have to be somehow. You needed me to be good. I should have probably cleaned up or something. Done the dishes. Our apartment was a mess. Instead—because I am no good—I came up with the idea that I would build you a fortress.

There happened to be a vacant lot at the end of our block and for a short period I thought that might be a good site for the build, but I didn’t have any wood or tools and I didn’t know how to use them anyway. Whatever sad structure I built out there would not protect you. It would be more likely to endanger you, I realized. Besides, it would be illegal. I didn’t want to get you in trouble with the City.

I would build the fort inside the apartment, like I had in my parents’ living room as a child. It was a good location, I thought. It was familiar, our space.

I was more comfortable working with pillows and blankets and coats than I would have been with splinters and hammers and nails.

My own comfort has always been too important to me, I now realize.

I am not much of an architect. In fact, even as a child, my brother had really been in charge of the forts. I wasn’t even so much like an apprentice. I was unskilled labor. Sometimes my brother called down when he needed an extra hand. I was the equivalent of a day-laborer waiting in the parking lot of a hardware store.

But this time I was the planner, the foreman, and the crew. It was a lot of responsibility. I almost gave up more than once.

I decided I would build you a star-shaped fort, like the fort you told people stories about when you were walking them around the harbor. I thought you would be comfortable in a fort like that and not worry so much. It seemed fitting. When I thought of you, I often thought of stars.

I gathered all of the bath towels and beach towels and sleeping bags. I stripped the sheets off the bed and emptied the dressers of our clothes, which I began to tie to together to make ropes I could use in construction.

I worked through the morning and into the afternoon. I used every piece of furniture in the apartment. I also used every pin on both of your backpacks and all of the black butterfly clips as fasteners. I moved the television into the center of the fort because we liked to watch TV.

I have to admit I got a little carried away. The fort grew and grew until it was in both rooms of our apartment and even in the bathroom. I had realized we would need a toilet and a place to shower. Basically the whole place was fort now. It was not shaped anything like the star I had envisioned. I only stopped building because I ran out of materials. All of our worldly possessions had more or less been incorporated into the construction. Because of this, I thought, the fort will have a very personal feel. I thought that might ease your worries and make your life that much easier. I knew you had been giving tours and you had walked a great distance in the hot, humid weather, pointing at things and talking. I knew you were tired and probably wanted nothing more than to come home and find yourself among familiar things. I sat in the middle of the fort, Indian-style, and waited for you to arrive home and come inside all that I had built for you.

As you know, it did not end well.

I’m still cleaning up after that awful star.  

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