Life: Some Assembly Required

We have come to IKEA for an EMMIE LAND duvet cover, but leave with a BESTÅ black/brown storage unit, six blue DINERA coffee mugs, a GRUNDTAL spotlight and two cinnamon buns.  We do not leave with a duvet cover.  I blame the dioramas that showcase organized life in amazingly small spaces.  This is Paul’s version of Swedish porn.

“Our TV console is a pain in the ass to keep clean,” he says and I know we are in trouble. 

While he grabs a paper tape measure, I watch a harried mother lean in and whisper softly but firmly to her three year old son who is sitting in the shopping cart.

“Do not put that dragon in my face.”

The boy pushes the colorful stuffed dragon with the lurid red tongue between her ample breasts, performing an indecent act of motor boating.

“That’s not your face!” he exclaims.

The dragon is unceremoniously dumped on a MOLGER shelf.

Paul returns with a tape measure and begins to size up a storage unit. 

“I know something big we can measure,” he says with one eyebrow arched. 

I sigh and turn to watch a mature couple pushing a frail older woman in a wheel chair. They hand the old woman a sample cabinet door.  She regards the door with mouth agape and uncertainty in her eyes.  They have given her a door.  What will she do with a door?

“Do you like the finish, Mom?” her daughter asks loudly and then continues “It’s for the TV stand.”

The old woman places a gnarled finger on her lips to consider this and I envision an empty spot next to her on the sofa which fills me with an unutterable sadness.

When Paul has written down all of the pieces, aisles and bin numbers we amble through the showrooms. Here is life in 597 square feet.  When we walk into the bedroom I am startled to find a gay couple in an embrace.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I mutter.

Here is life in 292 square feet. A sign in the bathroom exclaims “This is not a working toilet.” My eyes burn as if they have been sprayed with superfluous pepper spray at the vision.  As we continue, the rooms become smaller and I half expect to see life in an 8 by 10 foot cell.  The iron bunk beds would be brightly covered with a blue ticking NYPONROS duvet cover.

We load the boxes into the trunk of our car and lug them up the three flights of steps to our condo.  I watch Paul sweat and grunt and issue forth a litany of f-bombs, finally taking a hack saw to the unit in order to make modifications.

When the unit is complete I stand back as Paul turns on the GRUNDTAL light behind the glass door which showcases nothing but a dusty shelf and some air. He places two tequila skull bottles, souvenirs from a trip to California, inside. We have nick-named them Pablo and Guillermo.

“This will have to do until you find something to highlight,” Paul sighs.

Here is life in our 497 square foot condo. Two men cling to each other admiring tequila skulls in their BESTÅ cabinet.   It is an odd scene, but unlike IKEA showrooms, most lives have unexpected walls, doors and angles that require modifications.  When I first came to Paul, flat packed with missing pieces and cryptic instructions he took the time to measure out our lives in order to make things fit.  

That’s enough to highlight for me.


Don't Say It

He is stirring green beans and butter in a red plastic bowl when I realize that I could watch the way his long fingers grip the fork for the rest of my life.  He scoops the beans out onto two plates, turns and hands me one while raising an eyebrow. 

“What?” he asks.

“Looks good,” I reply.

They are frozen green beans, nothing special.  Eat them and you will grow strong.  But there is a weakness growing inside of me and I can feel the tendrils squeezing my lungs.

“Don’t be the first one to say it,” my brother says.  “You will look silly.”

When we drive along the rocky coast of Maine and watch the green ocean swell like it is a living being larger than eternity I do not say it.  When the snow dances and blankets the back yard in a sea of white and clings to the branches of the pine trees I do not say it. When the foolish moon kisses his sleeping face with horizontal shadows late at night in the stillness of the bedroom I do not say it.

“Has he told you yet?’ My brother asks.

“No,” I say.

“Good. If you tell him you will scare him away.”

Night after night I watch him cook buttered green beans, turkey meatloaf Florentine, buffalo chicken and listen as he pours out gurgling red wine.  I tell him that I am not dating anyone else. I tell him that he makes me laugh.  I tell him that I have never been this happy before, but I do not scare him away because I do not tell him.

“I have to say it.”

“Are you sure?” My brother asks.  “What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”

His question seizes me with doubt. I am a fool.  It is too soon.  I pack up the words and store them away.  The ocean is simply a body of water.  The cold snow is something to shovel and the moon is just a moon.

The alarm has failed me and I am running late for work.

“Have you seen my striped shirt?” I shout.

“It’s hanging up in the closet. It’s ironed,” He shouts up the stairs.

“I don’t have time for breakfast,” I say. “Where are my shoes?”

“They’re by the door,” he says.

I slip on my shoes. He is a smiling sentinel clutching a brown paper lunch bag, the top creased underneath those long perfect fingers. 

“It’s breakfast,” he says.

My lips graze his lips.  

“I love you,” it slips.

“Me too, now get your ass to work before you’re late,” he says.

The vine clutches my heart and squeezes the air out of my lungs as I run down the steps.

“What did he say?” my brother asks.

“I am such a fool,” I say.  

He'd told me long before I told him.

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