On Chairs and Poets
I’d decided the chair was ugly in the way only a burnt orange, dilapidated, over-stuffed easy-chair could be. It showed signs of repair attempts, some with thread in the wrong color, some with duct tape, and in one spot a different fabric patched over a hole in the back to keep the stuffing in. Even as I eyed its worn and ruinous state, I knew I wanted no other. It wasn’t the chair I was enamored with, it was the thought behind it.
Heero and I each had our hobbies, both physical and more sedentary ones. I enjoyed music and reading with an occasional attempt to write; he would spend hours hunched over a workbench taking things apart and putting them back together. We did share a few hobbies together, but mostly, I would read in the sunny corner of the room off the back porch, and he would be in the attic where his shop sprawled over the length of the house.
A few weeks before, Heero surprised me wanting to show me something in his attic sanctuary. I followed, believing he was going to prove me wrong again, and that he had actually got the food processor he picked up the week before to work. He stopped just inside the attic doorway, and gestured silently, his eyes seeking approval. The large, orange monstrosity sat with a small table on one side and a low bookcase on the other. At the chair’s back, a standing lamp stood guard, and the large dormer window above let in copious amounts of natural light.
For you, he had said. So I would have a choice on where to read. He had salvaged the chair, repaired the lamp, and fixed the table. The throw rug he’d taken from his room and the bookcase he purchased; he didn’t say where the potted ivy had come from, but it looked suspiciously like the plant I’d tossed the previous winter thinking it had gasped its last.
Though it clashed horribly with everything in its vicinity, the chair became my favorite spot, and nearly every day when time freed itself to allow us our own pursuits, we headed for the attic. I wasn’t sure what Heero worked on during those days, but I had been working my way through a box of old classic literature the old man who ran the bookstall sold me. None of it light reading, often I found myself unable to concentrate and let my attention drift. At those times, my eyes would stray to where Heero’s workbench stood pushed up against the long wall of the attic. And over the top of my book, I would watch him work for a time, relishing the silent companionability of his presence.
I had been lost in contemplating what it was that fascinated him about the circuit board he was currently working on, when he asked if I thought of him as my Shelley. The tone of his voice sounded as though he was disinterested before the words left his mouth, and that caused me to pause with my answer. It had taken me a moment to recall what he spoke of, and the memory of our trip to the marketplace several weeks ago surfaced; it had been the only time we’d kissed, the last time we’d touch one another physically.
Shelley and Bryon were friends, I had explained.
In his cool, modulated voice, he said that Byron always wrote Shelley inspired him to do better than he thought he could and how some thought they were more than friends.
Knowing I was walking a thin wire with this line of questioning, I pushed back with telling him how we’d gone through a couple of wars together. And how we’d been there for each other through so much shit that I’d never think of him as just a friend; that he’d always be more than one to me.
He’d turned to look at me as I spoke, his eyes shadowed and dark. It had been the closest I’d come to telling him how I felt. And then he asked how I did think of him.
Impulse often drives my actions and words to the brink of disaster. Blurting out I thought of him as I did the chair might not have been the best course. Though he was puzzled, he listened to my hurried explanation of it being comfortable, that even though it had lived through its initial existence, it still had a lot of life left and had more to offer. He laughed at that, and decided to test the chair’s comfort - with me still in it. Though wide enough, it was a tight fit to hold the both of us.
When he asked me if I liked Shelley’s poems, I had to tell him honestly they were too lovelorn for me, that I preferred the more gritty or thought provoking works of Whitman, Tate and Bellows. He surprised me then by reciting a stanza of my favorite Bellows’ poem.
Innocence torn asunder
The world in shades of black
Color washed away
In the blood red rain.
He confessed to reading the marked passages after I’d left the book out one day, and the empathy in his eyes was enough to dispel feeling any intrusion. He knew why the poem became as anthem to me. And though I had been watching him, I hadn’t been aware he moved until he kissed me.
We shared our second kiss that evening, scrunched together in a second chance easy-chair. A heartbeat later, he stood and pronounced it comfortable.
Back at his work bench, he looked up and declared Catullus and Shonnessy. Since I wasn’t sure who or what it was, Heero explained that they were part of the original colonists who settled on L3. One had been a poet, the other an engineer and instead of Bryon and Shelley, we were to be Catullus and Shonnessy. Because they were more than friends too.
And picking up his soldering iron once again, he smiled and went back to his work.