Seating Arrangements [CW for implied verbal/emotional abuse] My husband’s home office doubled as his man cave. It smelled of stale pipe smoke and the burn of whisky. The never-vacuumed beige carpet peeped out between furniture, piles of paper, and amber-liquid bottles. A wall of bookcases was packed with impressive but mostly unread titles. Credenzas teetered with printer and paper, notebooks, binders. Positioned in the center of the room was Costco’s most ornate desk, its fake mahogany surface overrun with monitors, keyboard, mugs, miscellanea. Amidst all this, Chad’s office chair stood majestic—big and cushy, shiny black, and smelling of oiled leather. Most nights after dinner, Chad opened his door, and I was granted admission to watch Two and a Half Men, Breaking Bad, or 24, playing out on a computer screen which doubled as a television. This was our Couple Time, a substitute for what didn’t happen in our bedroom across the hall, where my 11 p.m.–7 a.m. and his 2 a.m.–noon felt like separate shifts. After washing the dishes, I would show up carrying wine glasses and the remains of the dinner bottle. Chad would rise and retrieve my chair from his closet, pull the cold metal back from the un-cushioned seat, and position its pipe legs a few inches from the spinning base of his. He imbued the act with old-time chivalry—like holding the door or helping the lady with her coat. One evening I found myself alone in the mancave when Chad went to get more ice cubes for his whiskey. There was his chair, in all its magnificence, and it seemed to beckon. Come on; you know you want to. I waited until Chad was a few steps down the hall. And then, yes, I did it. I sat in his chair—or rather, I sighed into it, feeling it embrace my body, my back relaxing, my legs no longer restless. I felt its splendor, its magnitude. When I heard Chad in the hallway, I had time to switch back, but could no longer think why I should. And then he was at the door, a shadow on his face, looking at me as if I were the dog ignoring the pets-on-furniture rule. I met his gaze until he said, “That’s not funny.” I slunk back to the hard little foldup chair, and Chad reclaimed his throne, but a question had blown up in me. Why was I sitting on that unyielding seat, night after night, a good foot lower than him, shifting and fidgeting in search of an elusive comfortable position while scenes of Charlie Sheen seducing and discarding pretty young women played out amidst an ever-present laugh track? “We could get a decent chair for me, too,” I said. “There’s not room,” he answered, flicking the remote and bringing back Charlie. There could be room, I thought, looking at Chad’s closet. A gun safe took up half of it, and its doors were pressed open by a torrent of notebooks, cans of tennis balls, hunting bow, T-shirts, shoes, more piles of paper, cameras and lenses in every size, and DVD sets, including The Complete Benny Hill Show. All coated in seven years of dust. All occupying the floor space where a nice chair for me would easily fit. What can I say? It wasn’t my first marriage. That marriage had been the center of my life, a warm, comforting place with a beautiful, brilliant, and kind-hearted man—a physician and professor whose contributions to curing cancer helped form the basis of today’s research. But my young husband collapsed at work one scorching July day and died of a rare genetic disorder. Three years later, Chad dazzled me with his leading man looks, laugh-out-loud wit, his charm. Dazzled me so much I overlooked that he hated his mother, and at forty-eight, had never married. Worse, he drank all day. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t figure I would find perfect again. I thought I could fix him. I know. I know. I wasn’t wrong in thinking I could make it work with him. I could. By doing everything for him and asking for nothing. It worked—until I wanted a better chair. I sat in the ugly little chair for several more nights, but it was no use. Then, this: When I called Chad for a ride home from a street fair, he sent my unlicensed fifteen-year-old son into a monsoon to pick me up. Why? Because he wanted to watch a tennis game in real time. He couldn’t be bothered with TiVo. He couldn’t be bothered with me. My son drove slowly down the steep hills and was okay, but I wasn’t. Soaked from the storm, I breached Chad’s mancave entrance. You need to quit drinking, I said. Or leave. Chad spewed, he raged. He even rose out of his chair. The bedroom of my new home came furnished with two identical overstuffed chairs, so comfy you could almost float away in them. They even have a matching ottoman to stretch onto. The man I share them with is devastatingly handsome. He loved his mother. And wine with dinner is plenty enough for him. We could watch movies and cooking shows from the chairs, but we usually leave them to the cats. It’s nicer to snuggle on the couch.
Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at bethpeddle.com and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram
After a career managing bookstores, Debra Wilson Frank (she/her) earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Brevity’s Blog, Moss Piglet Zine, Meat for Tea, the anthology Being Home, and elsewhere. Her history of the Wasatch Mountain Club will be published in 2023. Debra lives, writes, and hikes in Salt Lake City.