The Chair
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The chair is the object of my attention. The room is nearly bare. Through the window falls an oblong of afternoon sunlight that casts squares, six over six, upon the polished oak floor. Perhaps this is where I will stay. I sit on the floor near a corner of the room and consider the chair standing beneath the light fixture. It is a maple chair without arms. It gathers the room to itself.

The walls have been newly painted eggshell white. On the floor by the door there is a telephone that carries no dial tone. If I spoke into it I would be talking to myself. It cant ring, but I have caught myself throwing suspicious glances toward it and surprised in myself the emotion of faint hope.

The seat of the chair is made of rush. The person who stood upon it to change the light bulb put a foot through it so that the rushes hang down beneath, and outline the hole. The only mystery is why the chair was left where it is in the room. The light works -- I tested the switch as I entered with the landlady. She made no attempt to remove the chair when she left.

Near the door lie my suitcase and my laptop computer in its own case. I am a writer. I continue to insist upon that. I have had three stories published. If I use a thong, perhaps I can stitch up the seat so that I can use the chair. Its tiring to think about -- not just fixing the chair, but sitting in it and typing. I have no idea why Ive come to this particular town, this particular room. The oak floor is hard, and my butt is beginning to ache. I can almost see her sitting in the chair, but not quite. A used tire, size 9.75-14, leans against the wall opposite the door. It must have rolled a little, because its left a smudge on the new paint.

If She were sitting in the chair, I wonder what Shed say, perhaps -- At least hes a hairdresser, Axel, not a novelist, and Id reply, What does that mean? That hair is better than stories?

And She might say then, for She was always quick, At least hair is painless.

The music is too loud, but I let it play. Now and then, as I watch the chair, I can hear the cd changer shuffling by the windows. Sometimes one needs to simplify his life. Perhaps one can do so without knowing its being done. One can create situations in which all the accretions of ones life self-destruct, leaving a clear space. No doubt I invented the hairdresser for some such purpose.

Hes an old man, I am told, or getting old. She is in her twenties; he, in his fifties. Im inclined to believe I invented him because Ive never met him and because the situation is ridiculous. I try to visualize him standing behind Her as She sits in the broken chair, Her large ass -- not too large -- barging down through the broken rushes.

In his hand he has a comb; he is teasing Her hair. He has already cut it -- the brown ends lie on the worn carpet under Her feet. Now and again he reaches around and cuddles one of Her breasts. She is reading a book, as always, and a look of annoyance crosses Her face. He giggles when he does it, his toupee listing slightly to port.

I dont laugh, because my haunch really hurts. I like the pain to a degree, but enough is enough -- I reach out and draw the pillow off the mattress that lies on the floor next to me, and I stick it under the pain.

Id already quit my job when She phoned to tell me about the hairdresser and ask that I not join Her as wed planned for two years while She went to graduate school and I taught six hundred miles away, my weekdays softened by the Other One, my companion in weekday exile.

The afternoon sun has moved away from the window. A shadow is beginning to crawl toward the chair. It already covers the card table where my manuscripts are stacked and waiting. The book case is half submerged in evening -- I can no longer make out the titles. I ought to turn on one of the two lamps or the fixture over the chair.

The stereo has stopped playing. Across the street the neon sign over the bar has just gone on.

I find myself wishing that the Other One were here, which surprises me. It would be good if she were leaning over the back of the chair in that slender way of hers and saying, like the tough guy she pretends to be, Isnt your ass getting sore, Axel? But if one is going to clear things away, one ought to clear everything and begin from point zero.

But my ass does hurt, and its gotten quite dark in the room, except for the light from the neon sign. I can no longer see the chair. That light can be deceiving. As I got up and started toward the switch on the wall I kicked a footstool and banged into the dresser. I have also knocked the phone off its cradle, and I can hear the buzz of the world entering through the wire, infiltrating the darkness. When I turn on the overhead it gives me a start to see the New One lying on the mattress. She wakes up and says, Why are you still banging around, Axel? Dont you know what time it is? I look at the calendar on the wall and am surprised to see that its six months to the day. Turn off the light and come to bed, she says.

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