Years later, after Victor and Alex had moved out of the apartment on Sixteenth Street, I moved into Alex’s room, which was quieter and larger than the one I’d been living in. I turned my old bedroom into a living room, and moved the ruby futon from Alex’s room in there. I made Victor’s room into a study, with an antique French desk and the historic sofa. The study was too quiet to work in, and anyway I had given up on my dissertation by then. Anyway. After about a year I decided to dismantle the Murphy bed, which no one used any more, and to put some things Victor had left behind in the space where the bed had been. I unscrewed the frame—it cried out like an injured animal—and used a hammer to separate the pieces from each other. I felt as if I were breaking a religious prohibition, like a Catholic eating meat on Friday. Surely I would be punished for dismantling a genuine Murphy bed, which had survived sixty-odd years in that apartment? A Murphy Beds Commission would learn about it and write me a summons; I would be required to put the bed back together—which I couldn’t do; some of the parts were bent now. Or suddenly guests would come, and have to sleep on the floor.
I put the parts of the bed on the street; the next day they were gone. No guests came. My landlady didn’t complain. There would be no punishment: it was almost more terrible than being punished. The world, I had discovered, was indifferent, even to genuine Murphy beds.
I left San Francisco six months later.