I sit on the floor staring at the chair in front of me. It’s old and rickety and doesn’t wish to be used, which means I can’t move it, can’t sit in it, can’t put anything on it; this chair is just setting in the corner, facing out the window. The legs of the chair are spindly and long, the feet curved shoes for rocking, its seat narrow and ornate. Carvings of vines and flowers cover the chair- across the headrest over the armrests into the seat and down the legs wrapping around the feet. The back is wide, padded, a leather cover to be aesthetically pleasing. I stare at it, cross legged on the floor, wondering what she wants now; why she is so quiet and unmoving.
I need to satisfy this chair, give her everything she wants. Her name is Maple. She asks for a polish, to be dusted, reupholstered, upkeep of her paint inside such intricate designs. Maple has a soul inside of her wooden veins, one that reaches out to me, begs me to care.
“What do you want, Maple?” I ask softly to the wood in the dark, it’s too early in the morning for this, but I couldn’t sleep. “I can’t sit here for hours before you tell me.” I warn her, grabbing the face clock searching for the time. “2:10 in the morning.” I inform her.
She stares back, silent in her mysterious ways. She sits there Un-wanting, disinterested, left in a state of boredom- un-entertained. The moon comes out from behind a cloud and shines upon her polished surface. She glows- beautiful. She asked for black, purple, and blue paint within her designs last- complimented by the moon tonight.
She enchants me. The way she looks at me in the moonlight makes my heart skip, the way she’s still and aware of her beauty, aware of my admiration. I blush, thinking about such a lovely creation. Sighing I stand prepared for sleep. I take some paces backwards and flop down onto the bare mattress on the floor. I lie on my back, turn my head, look at Maple.
“We need a better home, Maple.” I say to her as I take in the surrounding of my hovel. The floor has no carpet, the walls have no pictures, and my bed has no sheets. I live so primitively, spending what little I find on Maple and not comforts. The upkeep she demands is almost harmful to my life I think silently, letting the thought float around in my mind, flutter down and sink into the deep abyss of the things not to be said; things like how I miss the outside world. How I wish to see my family again- having long ago lost contact with them. I’m not even sure if they know I’m alive, likewise I don’t know if they are living. But I hope one day that the doorbell will ring and it will be them again- maybe my mother, beautiful in her old age or my father with pride in his eyes at seeing his little girl all grown up.
The doorbell rings. I groggily stand, look through the tiny peephole placed in the door and immediately wish I hadn’t.
“What do you want?” I say in a rasp tired way.
“I have something for you.” Was the response from the man on the other side of the door.
I undo the handle lock, and two deadbolts, and the chain; open the door. He’s standing handing out a coffee to me, black, just like I like. “Thanks.” I say and step aside to let him in. It’s been ages since I’ve had visitors. He used to come once a week, now it’s once a month; usually just to ask what I need then goes and gets it for me. I never ask for food- only for polish, paints, old rags, things that cost little but need and don’t have.
Pushing past me he sighs and turns towards me critically scrutinizing my long sleeve tee and baggy pants. “We need to go shopping.” He says as he sips his coffee. “You have nothing in here but that chair, a couple pairs of clothes, no food. How can you live like this?” I can hear the disgust in his voice, and it stings.
“Get out.” I demand.
“What?” the stench of liquor chokes me.
“I will not have you judge me in my own place of abode.” I look at him from underneath wild hair- eyes ablaze. I’m touchy having not slept or even wanting company besides Maple anymore. He ruined it, he made my morning unpleasant.
“Let us just sit and enjoy our coffee.” He smiles at me, diffusing my anger- History reemerging. We stand there awkwardly and converse lightly. “What have you been doing with yourself?”
“This.” Is all I offer- embarrassed for the first time since adopting this minimalist lifestyle. My hair matted, I’ve not showered because there is no running water, no electricity to show me the way at night and the apartment overall dusty and unkempt.
“You were happy once you know.” He says critically noticing my weight loss, the dark circles under my eyes, the split ends in my hair.
“I am happy.” I want out.
“Are you sure?” I don’t understand the look on his face so I avert my attention.
Glancing at Maple I merely nod; He watches me, then he goes to sit on the only furniture misinterpreting the exchange.
“Stop!” I yell as he begins to lower into her beautifully polished, un-smudged seat. But he still sits in her and new fury overtakes me. “Get off her right now!” I scream, throwing the cup of scalding hot coffee in his direction.
He quickly bounds out of the way and the coffee splatters all over Maple. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he exclaims then leaves astonished and dumbfounded by my behavior.
It hurts how he took off; it used to be a peck on the cheek, an “I’ll be home soon honey” and a smile that was meant only for me. But this is what my life has become- desolate.
Shaking with horror that I hurt Maple I watch the steam is rising off of her wood for only a second- baffled. “Maple, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to. I was trying to protect you from him. I was doing it for you. I do all of this for you, don’t you understand!” I’m yelling now, and crying and licking the coffee off of Maple, repeating how sorry I am.
She’s still- in pain, helpless, and a victim.
I sit with her- my head on her warm seat from the coffee- half my face damp from what was not removed. I cry silently into her lap. She comforts me, holds me in a warm and vague embrace. She understands- not spiteful. I plead my thanks and sit up; I must help her.
Going to the closet and retrieve polish and a towel. Before I cross the room to come to her aid I study her. She has lost some of her beauty, the shine is gone that made her come alive, the moonlight doesn’t reflect her carvings, the leather is pushed down from when he sat. He used her-repeats in my mind.
Crossing I kneel and begin the delicate process of polishing her, making her pretty, making her my Maple again. The dull gleams now, the paint can be seen from across the room in its brilliance; I manage to make her leather rest un-maimed. I’m satisfied, she is beautiful again, my pride and joy. That’s when I remember how Maple came into my possession.
“I have a present for you.” He whispers tenderly, and I turn around to see this beautiful chair, bright with possibilities, and I rub my enlarged belly.
“It’s beautiful.” I say to him, and look into those eyes that made me fall in love. That was my first mistake.
It is mid-day now as I stand and glance outside the window. I see green grass and large leaves, people walking squirrels, driving hay-bails. I smile, the world is bustling about, unawares of the misfortune that took place behind these plain walls, and I want to go outside. I ask Maple- she says I can’t go out.
I sigh and sit in front of her, staring. Instead of the moon the sun shines and Maple looks radiant, she looks clean, she looks healthy, she looks happy sitting there in the sun. And so I sit and watch wanting to be happy too.
A memory prods its way into my mind, and I watch it now like a movie.
“It hurts!” I scream, I’m on the floor and there is blood pooling beneath me.
“9-1-1?” I hear him yell in the other room, trying to get an ambulance. I holler and wail in pain for a couple hours, ride in the ambulance, dazed from blood loss and exhausted from agony and my eyes close while a mask is placed over my nose.
When I open my eyes again I’m in a mint green room and a hospital bed; there’s something sticking out of my arm, and I hear the beeping of my heart monitor. It kicks up when I realize where I am and a nurse comes in. When she opens the door I see him sitting there in a chair, a doctor over him, and, what is he doing? Crying?
“No need to fret dear.” I hear the nurse say as she pumps a clear liquid into the tube leading into my arm, and I sleep.
I want to eat, I haven’t eaten in weeks. I have just stayed here inside this room staring at Maple, talking to her, spending time with her, telling her how gorgeous she is. But she won’t let me eat, no matter how hard I try to please her. She won’t let me leave- for any reason. I get depressed so I talk to her about it. But I know – she has lost herself like I have through isolation.
“Maple, I miss my mom. I want her to come over, I want to go out to dinner with her, and talk to her, and have some fun out there in that world.” I sigh and look out the window. Maple retorts, but I’m not listening. It’s bright outside, but I don’t see it. I am probably cold, but I don’t feel it. I lay my head in Maples lap again, and close my eyes, and I breathe, but only for a minute.
When he finds me, it only takes moments to know.
“Honey?” I hear him cooing as I wake up, and I try to smile but my lips are chapped and I’m thirsty.
“Hey.” My voice sounds in love, and then I hear the sobbing. I turn my head and his face is buried in his hands, he can’t even look at me. “What’s wrong?” I’m alarmed; I wonder why I’m in the hospital now and not back home eating a lovely dinner like we were going to do.
“You lost it.” Is all he has to say.
I lost it. I see the chair in my mind, begging me to come home.
I hold my baby- both of us happy and healthy; we smile at each other, and I am in love.