She does this….
We will be out driving and she will cry, “Look!”
“At what?” I ask.
I want to tell her I don’t see what she sees but I know that is not true. We both see the same thing but she see it differently. Everything depends on what we consider worth looking at.
This time her head swivels as we roll past whatever it is. “I can’t believe you didn’t see that.”
“What?” I ask again.
“That furniture store is going out of business. The sign says, ‘Everything must go!’”
“Honey,” I explain, “that store has been going out of business for twenty years.”
“I want to look at lamps.”
If I were to draw up a list of everything that I need, another lamp would occupy a place four items down from an impacted tooth. We do not need another lamp. Nor do I want one.
But we go in anyway.
The first lamp to greet us has a square porcelain base and a square shade. I peek under the shade to see if the bulb is equally square. There is no bulb, so the jury is out.
Across the aisle stands a lamp designed as a prop for the movie Beetlejuice. Its contorted glass base might be described as surreal but only if surreal was less real.
Moving on, we pass art projects gone horribly wrong and lamps so huge they must be explained to guests. After that, it is all gratuitous bling.
The thing is, these lamps frightened me. I cannot understand why anyone would buy them. They are everywhere in the store and are obviously popular – which can only suggest one thing: I cannot understand the people who would buy them, which in a very large, very popular store means almost everyone. I have become a stranger in a strange land.
I have traveled the world. I have been to exotic places. I have feasted on raw octopus and fried bugs and found them delicious and while these things were alien, I still felt relaxed because I recognized the sense that comes from a thousand years of tossing out frivolous ideas. I did not get that same feeling from those lamps and had no intention of waiting a thousand years in that store for it to make sense.
“No,” she said, “you need a reading lamp.”
“I have one.”
She just looked at me.
It is true that my reading lamp is a disaster. It wobbles on its stand like a drunk and the light sputters and winks for no reason. When it blinks out, I have to thunk it back to life with my index finger. But I like it. It is what I have used for years and though I know I should replace it, I haven’t the heart.
“Do you see anything you like?”
“Not even close.”
“Keep looking,” she said.
Then I heard it.
And there, across an acre of Naugahyde, a young clerk impatiently struggled with the old reading lamp that flickered on his desk.
“How much for the lamp?” I asked.
“It’s not for….” he started to say – then clipped his sentence short as I pointed to the banner that proclaimed: “Everything must go!”