“My mom told me that this is what all couples need to do to test if they are really meant for each other.”
“It’s more than just that,” She explained, picking up and examining a stainless steel contraption.
“What’s that for?” He asked, trying to focus on just one thing in a store brimming with things to touch, to look at.
“I’m not sure,” She mused, “But I really like it. It’ll look good in the kitchen – our kitchen,” She purred with emphasis, looking up from the silver object at him.
“But if you don’t know what it is, why the hell are you buying it?”
“You know, honey, decorating a new apartment is hard work, it’s not all catalogues and Pinterest boards, you know. It has a lot to do with how you feel about things. Think of it like a trinket that you’d find in one of your precious antique stores – you buy things that are decades old and don’t even work anymore!”
He put his hands up in a sort of fatigued surrender. “Ok, ok,” He said. “Get the stainless steel unknown item. It’s only $2.99 anyways.”
She smiled at him the way that she always did when she got what she wanted, when he surrendered easily without a fight, which, admittedly, was most of the time. It was the kind of smile that made his blood curdle – her mouth spread against her front teeth, her lips pursed tightly to hide them because of a decades-long crooked teeth insult made by her boyfriend in the seventh grade, her eyes crinkled in a way she must have imagined as being very sweet and simpering, but which usually came off as frigid and fake. He smiled back. They made their way to the bedroom section.
As she wandered around the pieces of assembled furniture, he sat down on a bench and watched the store’s comings and goings. New roommates, young families, old couples, new couples, hesitant singles all swarmed around the same sets of cheap furniture, marvelled over the same basic white ceramic tiling, touched incredulously the same potted plants, declared boldly that they can’t possibly decide which table to choose – they’re all so good! He had wanted to furnish their new apartment with an eclectic array of antiques and thrifted stuff.
“Oh, but honey,” She had pouted when he asked when she could go antiquing with him, “Honey, I thought that we could go to IKEA this weekend to get new things for our new apartment – we don’t want to bring old ghosts of old things into our new place, now do we?”
“Why don’t we get some things at IKEA and some from antique shops?” He suggested, a good compromise, the stuff that good relationships are made from, he thought proudly.
“Oh,” She said blankly, “Well, sure, if we don’t find everything that we need at IKEA, I’m sure we can go to an antique store or two…” She allowed.
But now they’d been in IKEA for four hours and they had a full cart and a list of items to pick up at the end of the snaking path that leads its patrons through the dizzying store. They had kitchen towels and a sectional couch and a king sized bed and a hammered copper dinnerware set and a pre-packaged ceramic dinnerware set (“For company,” She had said, putting it into the cart). They had a coffee table and a side table and two rugs and a rolling bar cart and three hanging plants and five poster prints of various international destinations and a duvet cover and a sheet set and one French press and that stainless steel thing that nobody knew what, exactly, it was. There were things that they didn’t need and things that they needed even less. As he scanned over the overflowing cart, he knew that he wouldn’t be antiquing anything for their new apartment.
“Do we really need this?” He asked, digging the stainless steel item out of the cart.
“Honey, we went over this,” She said, snatching it back from him, “Yes, we do.”
“Well if it’s just like one of my antiqued knick-knacks… Why don’t I just get an antiqued knick-knack?”
“Honey…” She breathed in and out slowly through her nostrils, as though willing herself to calm down enough to reason with this unreasonable person in front of her. “I. Want. It. Why are you fighting me on this? What’s it to you if we do or don’t buy it? Like you said, it’s only $2.99!”
“It’s not about the money. Or what you want. Or what we need.”
“So what’s it about then?”
“It’s about what I want, it’s about what I need.”
“What you want? What you need? I’m sorry, are you moving into an apartment alone? I must have missed the memo.”
“No, god, that’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“Oh, so now I’m a manipulative bitch, is that right?”
“Jesus. No, that’s not right. Are we in the same world right now?”
“Ha!” She shrieked wildly. “Ha ha ha! So now I’m crazy, am I? Now I’m a lunatic?”
“I…I want to go back. Please. Ok, fine, god, we’ll get that stainless steel thing. Where the hell is it?”
“Oh this?” She held it up between her thumb and her index finger.
He made to reach for it before her face scrunched up in wild fury and she threw it into the all-white kitchen across from them. The steel clanged and clinked against the white wood, the metallic appliances. Ceramic plates fell and crashed on the floor with a deafening din. The store was silent, couples old and new stopped what they were doing to all stare at them. Some looked shocked, some had on an expression that said Phew, I’m glad that wasn’t me, some turned away a second later to get a closer look at the table that they wanted.
“Come on, honey, the store’s almost closing and we’ve still got to get all of our furniture.”