New Beds

Room Magazine - - CONTENTS - JEN CURRIN

Af­ter read­ing the short story, she was very emo­tional. She thought of past af­fairs, lovers lost—and the hot tears fell.

Later, mak­ing love with her lover, she cried more—dur­ing and af­ter.

It had been two weeks since they had made love and two days since they had bathed. The smells were sweat, sweet armpit, salt and musky hair—also fresh, earthy, like a pump­kin torn open.

Fall was, she con­cluded, sad. Early on, it seemed ex­u­ber­ant—the trees glim­mer­ing in so many shades of gold and orange. She’d halt her bike or walk just to stare at the dif­fer­ence be­tween a ver­mil­ion and a scar­let leaf stuck to the side­walk.

But fi­nally it was just sad. A few yel­low leaves cling­ing to thin branches and the never-end­ing rain cre­at­ing a slush-mush of rot­ten brown leaves that clogged the gut­ters.

The day she read the short story, two les­bians—an ac­quain­tance and her girl­friend—came to pick up a bed her lover had ad­ver­tised on The Queer Ex­change, an on­line buy and sell. Ear­lier that af­ter­noon, she and her lover had bought a bed at a shop on Granville Street for a lot of money, the most money she’d ever spent on an ob­ject, although it was the cheap­est bed in the shop.

Shop­ping for the bed had been en­joy­able. Rest­ing their heads on green cot­ton pil­lows, ca­ress­ing oak and maple frames. Look­ing at all the floor mod­els, ex­am­in­ing the pat­terned fab­rics of du­vets they wouldn’t buy and ad­mir­ing stain­less steel lamps curved over leather couches they couldn’t af­ford.

Af­ter they had de­cided the floor model was com­fort­able enough and that it was okay to spend that much money, they were rung up by a chatty, queer-seem­ing clerk with slicked-back black hair and a but­ton-up shirt. They started talk­ing about ex­cess, how North Amer­i­cans have too much stuff, and about the book by the Ja­panese writer that was all the rage, get­ting ev­ery­one clean­ing out their clos­ets and feel­ing min­i­mal­ist and right­eous. The au­thor rec­om­mended lay­ing all of your clothes out on your bed and then pick­ing items up one by one, hold­ing each shirt,

sweater, or pair of pants to gauge how you felt about it. She rec­om­mended emp­ty­ing your hand­bag each day when you came home from work and thank­ing it be­fore you hung it up on a hook that be­longed only to it. The book made many as­sump­tions. One was that ev­ery woman had at least one hand­bag. An­other was that peo­ple would throw out their old be­long­ings rather than give them to a thrift shop.

The clerk had read this book and had gone through all of his stuff, even get­ting rid of board games. Her lover had read it and had given half of her dresses to Good­will—not Sal­va­tion Army be­cause they were ho­mo­phobes.

The clerk told them that the hard­est thing to get rid of was his favourite T-shirt— an old one from high school with an in­dis­tin­guish­able logo, now a net of holes. In the end, he couldn’t do it. “I cut it up into rags,” he said. For some rea­son the image of this ex­tremely well-groomed man cut­ting up an old stained T-shirt for rags was strangely com­fort­ing—it made the fact that they had just spent so much money on a bed more bear­able, some­how.

They went home and made love on the old bed be­fore the younger les­bians came to pick it up. It was Novem­ber, rainy, grey and grainy light in the light blue room, and her lover’s blue eyes were bright and ten­der, alive in the dim.

The bed was new to them, th­ese young les­bians, although old to her lover who was giv­ing it away. One of the young les­bians had al­ready lived with sev­eral lovers. This was a mar­vel to her. She thought that this hope­ful­ness, this on­go­ing abil­ity to be­gin again, must be the prov­ince of the young, although it was dif­fi­cult to think of her­self as ever hav­ing been this way, even when she was young.

As the young les­bians lifted the mat­tress up to the roof rack, they were laugh­ing. The mat­tress al­most slid into the muck of leaves and mud but they caught it just in time and hoisted it up. One tossed a coil of rope to the other and they be­gan to tie it on.

She watched from the win­dow. Her lover was al­ready in the kitchen mak­ing more cof­fee and singing snatches of an old blues tune.

The book of sto­ries by the in­flu­en­tial les­bian—dead now for decades—was there on the cof­fee ta­ble, wait­ing for her to pick it back up. The gloss of the cover ob­scured the image of the writer’s face but in her mind’s eye she could see her large glasses and slight smile, which she chose to imag­ine as wise.

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