The Coffee Table

Essay

After knowing you for only a month I considered your brown leather couch a close friend of mine. It had become my safety blanket in your small studio apartment full of memorabilia from all the places you had experienced. Every time I came over to see you I felt a sense of uneasiness until I saw your couch. I know it sounds crazy, but it had this enchanting ability to draw me into your place and relax the butterflies soaring around in my stomach. When I found my spot on it I would sink deep into the cushions and hide from you, until you found me and captured me with your alluring presence. At the time, nothing made me feel more comfortable then when I was lying down on the couch wrapped in your sturdy arms. But unfortunately this isn’t about your couch; this is about your coffee table.

Your coffee table sat gracefully in front of your brown leather couch with its vintage gold legs curled up to hold a rectangular glass top. The glass held our beer and blueberries on the night you randomly told me I could have this piece of furniture. It shocked me that you wanted to give something of yours over to a girl you had only know for a few weeks. But that surprise feeling quickly faded when you told me about your new coffee table, sitting alone in the corner by your front door just waiting to be stained. You were trying to make your place feel more like a home, and you thought this wood coffee table you had just built would do the trick. I did not understand why you needed something new. I thought the fragile demeanor of the coffee table that you already had complimented the masculinity of your couch; they were the perfect fit. But you did not ask for my opinion, and I could tell you were excited about staining your new coffee table.

On our first date we ate deep dish pizza, veggies, and red wine at your place. That was the night you served me our first, and only, dinner on the coffee table that I would come to admire. We shared a night filled with background music from your Spotify playlist and plenty of banter as we began to eagerly learn about one another. Both of us had lived in at least six states so far, which led us to looking at maps on your iPad. You zoomed in to show me the road you grew up on in Michigan, and I tried to test your knowledge on big cities in Louisiana. Our bodies were close as we both bent over the coffee table to look at a bright screen in pure excitement. Nobody had shared this commonality of moving with me before, which made liking you that much easier.

After awhile I would notice the bridge designs you kept in a binder on the table. You made sure to scan over these designs almost every night before another long day of work. I would sit back and watch in awe as you looked over drawings of a bridge as if it were an absolute mystery. You wore a serious face and concentrated on each point, while silently talking to yourself, until you looked back at me with a goofy grin. Instead of being awkward, you made it a joke and pretended like I was a buddy of yours at work who knew exactly what you were talking about. Work became a serious topic for both of us, but we knew there were times when we just had to let it go and make a joke out of it. However seeing your blood shot eyes every night and your lack of presence indicated to me that you were extremely stressed. Saying this to myself was the easy part, but I secretly knew that sometimes you would drown yourself in alcohol to make the pressure of everything fade away. When talk about our jobs would get overbearing for either of us, we quickly learned how to make the other person less tense. You would feed me fruit and tell me crazy stories, and I would watch you drink and try my best to create diversions.

I once suggested that we play a game of cards on top of the table. Speed was the name of the game and we laughed so hard as we tried to remember the rules from our youth. I ended up winning two out of the three games but seeing you smile and have a good time was the real win in my book. Though I will never forget the fun game you had planned for us during one of the last evenings I would come over. I walked in towards the couch and saw two cacti, two ceramic holders, and one small bag of dirt sitting on the glass top of the table. You were giddy and ready to get started without any prior planting experience, so I felt the need to help out. I kind of knew what I was doing but we ended up making a bit of a mess anyways. After we finished moving the cacti into their new homes, you swept the dirt off the glass and began to think of names out loud for your new “roommates”. I sank back into the cushions where I watched your strong back lean from the couch to the coffee table, as you continued to clean and look back at me with your sweet smile.

Deep into the cushions is where I knew you would always find me. And when you did, you would crash into me and find every possible way to make me melt into your arms. I remember the way you looked into me with your hazel eyes on our first date where we sat close and talked about work, friends, food, and everything in between. I could not stop you from moving into my personal space that night and the rest of the nights to come. The Spotify playlist was there to set the mood and keep me coming back for more music that would eventually remind me of you. Everything felt natural when we were together on the couch listening to your favorite songs. We would tease each other and canoodle as we searched for something to watch on Netflix each night. And some nights just lying there and watching you clean or do laundry was enough for me.

But there were some moments on the couch that made me begin to wonder. Like the night you were scrolling through your phone trying to find a text from your brother. You stopped mid-scroll and showed me a picture of myself that you had sent him. You had told your best friend about me and my sister, who was also my best friend, knew nothing about you. The only reaction I could muster was a soft grin and an awkward eyebrow curl. You always caught me off guard and reacting to situations in the best manner is not my strong suit. Kind of like the time you whispered baby in my ear when you wanted me to move positions on the couch so you could get up and use the bathroom. I moved because I thought you were just sleep talking but you got up, kissed my cheek, and gave me a wink as you walked into the bathroom. You left me there sitting up and unable to move like some silly statue. But the couch took care of me while you were gone and every single soaring butterfly in my stomach soon became calm. When you came back I was able to let you in as you wrapped me up in the safety of your arms once again. 

You took me into your whole body on that couch, and I had never felt more protected by someone outside of my immediate family. You were so gentle when you stroked my hand and then held it as you used your other hand to caress my ribcage. I knew your work schedule kept you from getting adequate sleep, so I let you embrace me as I watched Netflix and you snored loudly in my ear. I honestly did not mind the snoring in the least bit because. I remember thinking it was cute that you could feel comfortable falling asleep holding someone you barely knew, and then breathing loudly in their ears. But I also thought it was cute when you would not let go of me some nights. You held on to me tightly and grunted so I could not get up and leave. You would not let me get up and leave that stupid brown leather couch. So that is when I began to stay. We stayed on the couch until it was time for bed. But this is not about the bed, it’s about the coffee table and sometimes it’s about the couch.

The last time I came to your place I did not touch your couch or my coffee table. I could not even look in their general direction as I perched myself on your kitchen wall. There was no kiss hello, and we both pretended like the reason I came over was to get my sweater that I stupidly left next to your bed the last time I stayed. You wanted to talk like everything was normal, but it was apparent that I could not do that. The tension between us became unbearable as you slowly poured yourself a glass of whiskey. I had the recent pictures of you and her burning in my mind just like the whiskey that was currently burning down your throat.

We began talking about things that I never wanted to talk about with you, which made me wonder if I was in a nightmare I would soon wake up from. But when I didn’t wake I was naive enough to think that this could possibly be our first real fight. That was until I realized I needed to ask the question that was going to burn us instantly. And when you stood there with no response and a blank stare, I became irate and stormed out of your place with no words other than a harsh goodbye. As I was rushing to the door I saw the new coffee table still sitting in the corner and I wanted to kick it so badly. But I stopped myself, and I took one last glance of the coffee table and vacant couch just sitting there without us. I hate that this is the last memory I have of these pieces of furniture. There are times when I wonder if all you think about is what happened on the couch, because I am constantly thinking of that damn coffee table and if I will ever get a chance to get it from you.

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