The only thing I remember seeing clearly was the chair. The densely patterned brocaded fabric was the hue of 1974 green, registering somewhere between the color of pea soup and a ripe avocado. My finger traced the raised, itchy patterns. Swirl, skip, swoop, jump. That chair may have been beautiful. I don’t know. I just know it was his.
The chair sat in a pile in the corner dwarfed by the empty room. Small and forgettable. I think there were boxes flanking the chair. Somedays I imagine what was in them. What precious mementos earned that honored place next to the chair? He was a photographer. Maybe he had favorite pictures in those boxes.
A thin yellow plastic rope unnecessarily stood sentry over the pile. It wasn’t as if the stuff was going to walk away. Everything within the boundaries of that rope had place, permission to be there until he came and got it. The chair was staying. I was leaving. I was on the wrong side of the rope.
It’s confusing. I have absolutely no memory of his presence in the house. The halls echoed with the sounds of women and children but never the bass of a man’s voice. I don’t remember eating meals together at the oddly green varnished dining room table with its big fat elephant like legs. There are no memories of laying together on the scratchy orange den carpet listening to my favorite records. The long gravel driveway extending from the dark brown garage doors to the street didn’t have impressions of his big feet walking near my little ones. However the presence of the chair hints at the possibility he had once been present in the house.
I am vividly aware that my arrival in that empty living room, staring at the pile in the corner, with my back to an open door, was not without cost and effort, presumably much more effort than the choosing of that chair. He CHOSE ME. He bought me. I am a product of a bond that is supposed to be stronger than family. A fortified bond because it is intentional. I belonged to him but he let me go. Wasn’t I at least as beautiful as the chair.
Years later it would become apparent that he had hurt us in the most intrusive ways so we had to get away from him. Of course she was hurting us too so it wasn’t like we were fleeing to safety. I used to fantasize that he was coming to rescue us from her. I mistakenly thought since we shared a name he would be invested in protecting me from her. I didn’t yet know he wasn’t that kind of man. He wasn’t a brave defender who would shield my body and block her blows. He was a coward who was only a hero in his own obsessions and fantasies.
I assume after we left, traveling states away from him, he returned to get his chair. Unfortunately, I never did make it to the other side of that rope. I just know that he chose the chair.