The Perfect Arrangement

When I first started writing I would flip through the rolodex of memories in my mind, pluck out a story and transcribe it from beginning to finish: The End. Wham bam, thank you Ma’am. It was an accurate account, but it was hardly inspiring. As my writing skills matured my synapses rewired themselves forcing me to become introspective, preoccupied and dare I say it? somewhat of a diva. Objects became repositories of memories. The chair was no longer just a chair. I would weave two seemingly unrelated stories together and become frustrated when Paul could not see the perfect arrangement.

“So, you understood that the ducks in my post represented a dormant memory taking flight, right?” I would ask Paul impatiently.

He would stare at me blankly and reply “Can we have this discussion with your shirt off?”

“Savage” I would think to myself and then whip off my shirt. “And the symbolism of the snow on the path, tell me you got that?”

Absent mindedly he would say “Nope.” And then ask “Sweetie, where is the kitchen?” Frustrated I would wave my hand without looking up from my notebook and say “Over there” until I felt his puppy eyes boring into my skin. “OK, it’s there!” I would say bending my forearm back towards my shoulder in an exaggerated body building pose.

“Oh yeah, that’s where it is baby!” He would say while grabbing my bicep.

I would roll my eyes and focus my attention back on the computer screen. Clearly we were operating in two different worlds. I became obsessed with the idea that every word had been written and the only thing new I could add was to arrange them in a unique way. But at the same time Paul began to engross himself in planning the furniture for our new cottage in Maine.

We would sit silently on the sofa, me arranging and then re-arranging words on my screen while Paul searched the Internet diligently for the perfect deck table.

“Look at this one. It is perfect!” Paul exclaimed. Lost in my words it took me thirty seconds to process his statement. “Yep, that’s it.” I said flatly.

Our local IKEA store ran out of stock of the Perfect Table before we could purchase one.  Paul was morose and became obsessed with finding a replacement. He created a diagram of the deck on drafting paper complete with all of the door locations and paper cut outs of the Perfect Table and chairs. He would show me how the table’s leaves could open up and the chairs could be arranged to fit all of us around the Perfect Table. There was just enough room for this arrangement.

On weekends we would drive to IKEA and Paul would sadly visit the spot where the Perfect Table once resided in its own little outdoor diorama; replaced by an inferior table. Tempted by the smell of cinnamon buns I guided him towards the exit. “Come on, we’ll get a frozen yogurt and a cinnamon bun. I’m sure we can pick up a table at Target.” I said in my most sympathetic voice. He gave me the “how could you? “ look as if I had just brought a date to his funeral.

“It’s just a table” I said while licking the icing from my fingers. We had spent enough time looking for this table and I wanted to go home and get back to arranging words.

But he never gave up. Then one day he checked the stock at an IKEA in Long Island, New York. There were five tables in stock. In a rare intersection of personal life and business his travels took him to New York and then I received this e-mail:

      Subject: Porch Table

      Purchased and in the car! Great Success!

I refrained from typing a reply asking how the actual business portion of his trip had fared.

We drove up to Maine this weekend to survey the construction progress on our cottage. During the car trip, I sat silently in my world, arranging words in my head and I can only imagine that Paul must have been arranging the Perfect Table in his.

At the construction site, we stood on the deck under a surreal blue sky. The Webhannet River snaked across the marsh and just beyond the pine trees the New England Sea sparkled in the afternoon sun. “This is where the table will go.” Paul said proudly. “It's just the right size for our family. You can sit here with your notebook and a glass of wine as you write, looking out over this view.  That should make Willy happy.  Can you see it?” He asked beaming. At a sudden loss for words, I replied "Perfectly."

Sometimes a chair is just a chair and sometimes words are just words, but sometimes? A table is much more than just a table.

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