Nothing could get between us...until the affair was over. Part 1.

by Hugh Gilmore
Posted 3/25/21

The sun and sky were provocative that day. Clear and 68 degrees – so welcome after the recent blitz of snowstorms. Warm and enticing. The weather, after all that hostility, felt like something comfortable you could slip into, like a favorite shirt.

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Nothing could get between us...until the affair was over. Part 1.

Posted

On the Friday afternoon that started this adventure into the twisted hell of American commerce:

I’d had both my Covid shots, my wife, Janet, would be getting her first at 1 p.m., and my son, Andrew, who has qualifying disabilities, had got his first on Tuesday. Such a mental relief for me. My mind had not been free to enjoy my presumed immunity while they were still at risk.

The sun and sky were provocative that day. Clear and 68 degrees – so welcome after the recent blitz of snowstorms. Warm and enticing. The weather, after all that hostility, felt like something comfortable you could slip into, like a favorite shirt.

I had an urge to get out and do something different – bust those chains, come out from behind the curtain where I'd lingered through the dark winter, asking "Are they gone yet?" Those tiny, spiked balls that made us cave-up for a year?

And so, I left the house that day – the first time in a year for something other than food or pharmacy. I felt peppy. So did my car. I had to restrain my monster wheels (Honda CRV – gray, of course) from leaping out of the carport. Hey, maybe I should motor along with the windows open, blast some Buxtehude for the folks lining the sidewalks, waving "Welcome out" flags.

Enough. Here comes the sad part: I've been speaking lightheartedly only to disguise the unpleasant chapter we must segue to now. The time had come to do something I didn't want to do. Something I knew was coming for a few years now: my relationship with my favorite reading chair had gone lame. Hard to face, but true.

We'd been together for 25 years. It had accommodated my slumping, leaning, sprawling anatomy all that time. The seat that launched a thousand shifts had seen me through hundreds of books, newspapers, magazine articles, TV shows and movies. And its quiet, calming embrace – like a guardian angel's – had sustained me through many afternoon naps and pondering sessions. Relaxing. Supportive. Loyal like a dog. Lap-like to my inner curled-up cat.

But neither of us was getting any younger. Like myself, its padding had flattened. Its leather arms took on a nice "vintage" look for a few years, but then cracked and puckered up like bullet exit holes. It made my back ache. I needed pillows in strategic places. I nonetheless sat in it in pain. What else could I do? I endured. I didn't want a new one. I wanted the old one to go back to the way it was when I fell for it. Sure, I considered therapy. I sought the help of several YouTube leather repair videos. But no way! Fake looking. I bought leather repair tape in a (ha ha) matching color and covered the holes. Welcome to Dogpatch.

One night after dinner last October, I decided we should go our separate ways. I'd look for a new companion by searching online. I snuck down to my office so there'd be no hurt feelings. Since I'd bought it at Raymour & Flanigan up in Abington, I decided to go back and buy a new copy of the old one. On their site, I found that my old flame is now called a "Contemporary, Swiveling Recliner with Matching Ottoman." Hmmm. Its upholstery was leather – had to be. Its color burgundy – again, had to be. The website model closest to mine in appearance was called "Opal."

After months of thinking about it, though, I couldn't decide. Biggest impediment: they wanted $2195.38. Hmmm. Too much. I'd wait till after the holidays when the sales happened. I checked the price every week. It never changed though. The pandemic had created a home-makeover boom and demand now far outstripped supply. Hmm again. But I wasn't about to buy a chair online that I hadn't tested for physical compatibility.

On the sunny day mentioned at the start of this tale, I drove back to Raymour and Flanigan to audition Opal as my new companion. I'd called ahead. A salesman awaited me. We elbow-bumped and discussed my needs.

My needs? Being a man, I, of course, wanted the same companion as what I had, what I ... is love too strong a word? Okay, the one I’ve loved for 25 years.

And, of course, the one on their webpage looked close to it, but when I got there I could tell it had received the dubious benefit of "restyling." Namely, narrower arms and seat, no headrest, no sumptuousness. Its lines didn’t “fly” like my chair's. It looked like office furniture and the price had gone up a lot…if I'd paid $800 or so back then, it was $2195.38 now. And, no, I couldn't buy it without an ottoman to save money. And they'd changed the name to "Ruby." And they came in Momma, Papa and Baby Bear sizes. And the price was actually $2395.00 plus $400.00 for the ottoman. Plus tax and whatever, which would bring it over $3,000. To read in! Not to mount on wheels and ride as Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl parade, but to read in!

In the flash of time it takes for a bad idea to streak across the browning prairie of my mind, "I thought, "Well, it has been an awful covid shutdown and I do deserve a treat." I felt my tin-plated Visa start to pulse.

That was when I stepped to the side and looked at the chair again and admitted that what looked like "Burgundy" online turned out to be a Splotchy Brown. Not the same. No, can't do that. Gosh, what would I tell the salesman whose time I'd just wasted? Whose hopes I'd dash? As any brave, strong man would do, I hid behind the little woman back home. I said, "My wife will kill me if I come home with a brown chair. She's got the entire living room done in rose."

I went home without a chair and that night, when I could no longer ignore my reading chair's soft welcome, I sat down and patted its tape-patched arms. Since then, in an uneasy truce, I've sat each evening thinking about how I’m going to replace it. But not thinking too loud – in case chairs develop feelings and sensitivities from their close contact with us over the years.

(To be continued: "The Search")

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