Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: storytelling (page 1 of 2)

Fictional Characters of New York #47

guitar

It’s a decent gig playing guitar on Rector Street. Although the Wall Street guys downtown are born assholes, programmed to crush their competition, they tip well, especially when the NASDAQ is up. Music is universal, no matter your income. During two years of standing on this corner, music has covered my rent and helped me pay back some debt I incurred at Julliard. The street has also been good for my soul. The constant chaos of lower Manhattan has softened the pain of losing Gina’s soft skin next to another man at night. A year later, there was still a hole in my heart. I had loved her more than all the music in the world.

The market fell a hundred points today, so I started to pack it up early, at 6PM.

“Don’t leave yet,” he said, approaching me from around the corner. He was one of my regulars. I nicknamed him “GQ” because he was always dressed in an imported Italian suit, pressed shirt, and fine leather shoes. His eyes that were the color of thousand dollar bills.

“Play it for me,” he said to me. “Play me the song.”

“I’m already packing up,” I replied, not wanting to go through this game again.

“Play it for me. Like only you can.”

“I don’t think it is a good idea to…”

GQ opened his wallet, drew out several hundred bills, and shoved it into my hands. My body was repulsed, wanting to return it, but my mind reminded me of my financial need.

I grabbed my guitar and strummed the opening chords to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”

“Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful
And I tell her everyday.”

As I sang the song, I thought about GQ’s cruelty. “Just the Way You Are,” was OUR song. It was playing on the radio on the night I met Gina. And he knew that.   Winning Gina wasn’t enough for him.  He would pay me to sing to the victor, the ultimate humiliation, because on Wall Street, you are programmed to crush your competition.

Fictional Characters of New York #46

old man

“Help me to the window,” said the old man to his aide. “I want to show you something.”

The old man put his face to the window, like a kid looking into a candy store.

“You see those two buildings on Fifth Avenue. I own them. I own forty-seven properties in Manhattan, twenty properties in Brooklyn, and twelve properties in Queens. I practically own the city.”

“Your legacy is clear, sir.    We will remember you as one of the greatest men the city has ever produced.”

The old man laughed.

“What do you know about Boss Tweed?”

“Who?”

“He ran the city in the late nineteenth century. Today, he is nothing more than an obscure answer on Jeopardy. No one will remember me.”

The crowd below had gathered in strength.  This morning, even the scared New York Times had weakly endorsed the rabble-rousers of the Occupy Real Estate Movement.  The angry mob marched down Fifth Avenue with their signs and banners and angry voices calling for an end to all private property. Ground Zero was the old man’s apartment tower, the third largest building in the city, where apartments started at $20 million dollars.   Last week, the old man’s organization installed bulletproof windows in his penthouse, in case one of the armed protesters hijacked a helicopter.

“Where are you from?” the old man asked his aide. “For all the time you’ve been here, I’ve never asked you about your family.”

“I’m from Staten Island, sir.”

“I was born in the Bronx. Morris Avenue. It was a nice place back then. We used to play stickball in the street. I kissed my first girl on Morris Avenue. Mary Lapazza was her name.  Of course, everyone I know from that time is dead by now.  Including Mary Lapazza.  “I’m going to make it big for you, Mary,” I once told her after she decided to go to the prom at Andrew Jackson High School prom with Arnie Weinstein instead of me.  “I’m going to make it big, and then you’ll come calling on me!””

The old man jerked unsteady on his cane.

“Would you like to sit down, sir?” asked the aide.

“No. I’d like you to go buy whatever property is now on 145 Morris Street in the Bronx. I don’t care how much it costs. I want you to buy it today. And then when you buy it for me, I want you to drive me over there, because for the rest of my life, that is where I am going to live.  And die.”

Fictional Characters of New York #41

light

It was not a good third date.

Sheryl had high hopes about him; he was a perfect gentleman on the first two outings. But he changed tonight, as if he had gotten some bad advice from an ex-fraternity friend on becoming a “player.” He bragged too much about his new job as a securities analyst, and pushed her to order the most expensive cocktail at this trendy restaurant that was “impossible to get a reservation except if you know someone.”

After dinner, she turned down his offer for him to come to her apartment, saying that she was old-fashioned, certainly not expecting his face to redden and words to spew such as “cocktease,” “bitch,” and “user.”

Sheryl never perceived herself in such a negative way before, wondering if she was indeed guilty of breaking the rules of dating.  She apologized to her date and said she was uncomfortable dating.   She’d rather just stay home and read, but her ultimate fantasy — of one day walking through Central Park with a special man, holding his sturdy hand — proved sufficient motivation for her to leave the house wearing the makeup she bought at Macy’s and her prettiest yellow dress.

Sheryl walked home alone. Weaker women would be crushed by the evening’s disappointment, but not Sheryl. As she passed by the abandoned church on Amsterdam Avenue, she saw that the church light, a former beacon of hope to those in need of spiritual guidance, now cracked in disrepair, was still lit, almost miraculously, much as her broken heart still beat strongly in a search for love.

Fictional Characters of New York #40

Eddie

The year was 1972.  Eddie was working at his father’s hardware store in Chinatown when the People’s Republic of China Peking Circus came to town as a cultural exchange arranged by President Nixon.

It was a busy in his father’s hardware store, named Yang’s Do-it-Yourself.  It was the first day of Spring, and all the hibernating weekend warriors suddenly awoken to the maintenance jobs left undone during the cold winter month, their wives pushing them to fix the broken doorknobs and misfitting window shades.

But Eddie’s mind was elsewhere.  The NYPD closed off part of Mott Street for a procession of the Chinese performers, a mini-parade, and Eddie was keen on seeing it.   At lunchtime, he left the shop, against his father’s wishes.

Eddie thrilled at the sight of the exotic acrobats and horses which paraded down the grimy, littered Lowe East side street.  The circus performers looked as Chinese as he did, same eyes and dark hair, but they stepped with a precision that made them seem distinctly unAmerican.   If only the Chinese people saw the chaos during a fire drill at an American school like P.S. 100.

“Form a straight line.” Mrs. Goldenberg, his teacher, would yell.  “One at a time.”  And, of course, no one listened.  Americans are like John Wayne.  They do it THEIR WAY.

“I bet there isn’t one Eddie in THIS circus,” Eddie thought to himself.

A few moments later, he saw a woman in the procession wearing a costume with golden wings.  She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  Her name was Howin, which means “loyal swallow” in Chinese.  He discovered that was her name because he followed her for a mile along the route uptown and waited for her for five hours in the lobby of the Pennsylvania Hotel until he could see her again, completely forgetting about his job back at the hardware store.  That night, his father beat him with a belt, calling him a shameful son who lacked ambition.

Today is the first of Spring, 2015, and Eddie has long forgotten the beating.  Eddie prides himself on remembering the good things in life and not the tragedies, such as his father’s death, his son’s suicide at seventeen, the closing of the shop, his wife’s cancer.  And he will always remember the day and especially the night with Howin, the Communist Chinese circus acrobat visiting on a cultural exchange arranged by then President Nixon, a woman he could barely communicate with in Cantonese or English.

He never again saw Howin, the loyal swallow, but as Eddie, now an old man, walks along Mott Street on this cold first day of Spring, he remembers her golden wings.

Storytelling and “Doing Good”

Blogging story of the day:  Big-time blogger goes to third-world country, writes post about what she saw, and others criticize her for being a wealthy white woman doing “poverty tourism.”

But this blogger is “doing good!” say her defenders.

I’ve now read ten posts on this topic, all focusing on how wrong it was for others to mock a person doing so much good. In two days, the personal blogging community went from caring only about “monetizing their blog” to  the importance of “doing good.”

In my opinion, you are getting the argument wrong.   The “doing good” is a red herring.   It has nothing to do with anything.   I’m not friends with any of the parties involved, so there is no one I want to defend.

I’m just interested in storytelling.

I believe writers should be able to tell their stories without others mocking them.   A person has the freedom to go to a Third World country and write about his or her experience.

If I went on this trip, I might talk about my allergies, the smog, and how the cab driver ripped me off.  I might even HATE visiting this chaotic country, and reveal I spent the entire week in my hotel room drinking mojitos   And you know something? — you still don’t have any right to mock me.   It’s my story, even it’s about a weekend in a upscale hotel in a Third World country.    Not an editorial on how you should live your life.

Of course, a person also has the right to criticize.   But only the issue, not the story.  The story is above the issue.   That’s what make stories last longer than the issues.   Because stories not about “doing good” or being right or following any political or artistic agenda.

They are about life.    Write your own stories.

Storytelling and Ideology

I go to McDonald’s almost every day for a cup of coffee.  There is one downstairs from my apartment building in Queens where I live, so it is convenient.  McDonald’s coffee is cheap, pretty good, and the location has wireless.  I can sit there for an hour and half without feeling guilty, like I do in a typically overcrowded New York Starbucks with limited seating, and others waiting.

About two weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was trying out their new oatmeal, and that it was mediocre.   I complimented McDonald’s for at least offering something healthier than the Egg McMuffin.  A few people commented back, mocking McDonald’s and their lame attempt to be “healthy.”  Others blamed McDonald’s for American’s obesity problem and vowed to never bring their children into the fast food chain.

It was a good and interesting discussion.  It was only a few days later that I felt a surprising chilling effect.  Knowing that McDonald’s is not a favorite locale of my readership, with all sorts of negative connotations, should I mention my daily trips to McDonald’s anymore?  How does this affect my “brand?”

Of course, I already know your response to that question.  You are all nice people.   You are going to say I should write about anything I want.  But I’m human, too, and I think peer pressure is a worthy subject to discuss, even when it is involved with something like storytelling.

I remember speaking out against the “People of Walmart” website, calling it mean-spirited, even though so many of you thought it was hilarious.  But let’s face it, millions of people go to Walmart every day, whether we like it or not.  How many personal storytellers have now decided NOT TO TELL their little story about their family’s trip to Walmart online because of the negative association the store has with their online friends?  How many women are afraid of telling some funny story about feeding their baby some baby formula, scared to death that they are going to be attacked by breastfeeding advocates.  Or is THAT the point?  To change people’s attitudes by peer pressure?

We are not talking about opinion pieces here.  We are talking about stories.  Human stories of life.  I think we need to make a distinction between opinion/news and storytelling.   Arguing about the Republican’s health care plan is political.  Arguing with a non-political story about a Republican-voting wife is not always appropriate.  It could just be a story about going to the doctor.  Even Republicans have to go to the doctor.

We all proclaim that the internet is about “giving voices” to everyone, and “letting everyone tell their story.”  But do we really believe it?  Perhaps what we are really saying is that “we want to free the voices that have the same beliefs that we do.”

Stories are a funny business, because not every single story is a moral tale, or even makes the hero look good.  For instance, there was once this fight in junior high, and my friend got involved, and rather than helping out, I ran away, wanting to save my own ass.  I’m sure you can see why I fear telling this story.  It is a tale of cowardice.  But it is a human story, a story of a specific time and place.  My eyes are already rolling from visualizing the comments, a combination of friends supporting me and trolls saying someone should cut off my dick.  Too often, we read each other’s stories like they are public announcements of confession or attacks.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I supposed it is the job of the writer to present his unique story in a way that undercuts the reader’s stereotype.  One day, I would like to write a truly beautiful post about my local McDonald’s.  Yeah, yeah, I know it is a corporate giant and the food is terrible and is making our children into fat slobs.  I know all this, and I agree with you.

But I enjoy my cup of coffee in McDonald’s.  Rightly or wrongly, my McDonald’s attracts a very mixed crowd, and in my eyes, it is probably the most ethnically, racially and class mixed group I have ever encountered in one enclosed place.  There are blacks and whites, working class guys, and a businessman stopping for a quick bite before he runs for the bus. And you know what?  We are all nice to each other.  We have a common denominator — McDonald’s mediocre fast food.  Even though McDonald’s isn’t kosher or halal, I see both Jews and Muslims in the playground area with their kids, playing together.  In some ways, my local McDonald’s is our neighborhood’s public park, our Central Park — and even more diverse.  People write poems about Central Park.   Why not about McDonald’s?

But I wonder what the reaction would be if I wrote this glowing tribute the the Golden Arches.  Now if I had a McDonald’s advertisement plastered on my blog, THAT no one would care about.  But a personal opinion would be ripe for attack.  Would some advocate suggest that McDonald’s is “using” minorities for corporate gain by supplying them with cheap, unhealthy food?  Perhaps.  But that is not the story I am telling.  And it would ruin the point of my story.   After all, you might write a lovely tale about your family’s lovely luncheon at the organic food restaurant in the Village.  I’m sure you would not appreciate it if my review of your story was “typical long-winded stuff about a wealthy New York going to a cafe of overpriced food with other white, privileged patrons.”

I believe ideology is the enemy of storytelling.  Let people live their lives and tell their truth, without shame, even if the story doesn’t always fit into your box.   If you really want to hear “the voices of people,” you have to hear about visits to McDonald’s and Walmart — because that’s part of their story.

Note:  Speaking of stories, you can read a post I wrote for Studio 30+ about the pitfalls of searching for photos of topless women online when you are a 30+ male.

I Cannot Imagine

I cannot imagine what you are going through.

I cannot imagine what you are going through as a single mother.
As an Mexican-American.
As a little person.
As someone laid off from your job when your wife is pregnant.
As a child growing up in the slums of Mumbai.

Why do kindhearted people always say that?

I CAN imagine what you are going through.  I have a good imagination.

It is better to imagine.   Tell me your story, and I can imagine it.

If I cannot imagine what you are going through, it means I’m not paying attention.

The Story

Two weeks ago I went with Jen Lee to this Moth Storytelling Slam downtown. It took place at a small venue downtown, so audience members and storytellers were lined up for an hour before the show, in the freezing cold, just to get a seat. As Jen and I waited, she introduced me to her friends. She is a semi-regular. During my conversations with some of these storytellers, I was amused by the sub-culture that has grown up around these “slams.” As bloggers, we’ve become so used to chatting about WordPress and plugins, gibberish to outsiders. Well, every sub-group has their own insider lingo.

“You going into the hat tonight?” some hipster guy asked me.

“Huh?”

He explained to me that those who wanted to tell a story put their name into a hat, and ten storytellers are randomly chosen.

As he spoke, he gave me a aggressive look, ready to pounce on me if I said, “Yes,” as if this was the storyteller’s equivalent of a new blogger arrogantly thinking he was going to make as much money as Dooce in his first year of blogging. I assured him that I was just a visitor to this strange storytelling world, which eased the tension.

The line for the show was snaking around the block. There was a hodgepodge of social activity going on — networking, flirting, competitor bantering, cold stares, and camaraderie, while the intense loners stood apart, practicing their stories on a mini-recorder, praying to God that they be picked to present their story that night, catapulting them to literary success, allowing them to quit there job selling bathroom plumbing at Home Depot, and enabling them to give a big “f**k you” to all the less-talented wannabees on line next to them.

Sound familiar? Exactly! Like an invitation-only party at BlogHer.

Finally, the doors to theater opened and we were let in out of the cold. Jen and I found good seats. As the show began, I could feel a nervous tension in the air. The MC, a storyteller himself, pulled a name out of the hat and that individual was invited to come to the front and tell his story. Since no one knew who was going to be picked next, those waiting for their name to be called were always at the edge of their seats. The female storyteller in front of me, dressed in the 1970’s Annie Hall look, was tapping her foot the entire evening, waiting for her big moment, like a teenager waiting for the phone to ring to be asked to the prom. Sadly, the boy never called. At the end of the night, she was the first one out of the bar, on her way home to sulk.

Each night of storytelling revolves around a new theme. The subject is broadly defined, so the storyteller can almost mold any story into the current theme. The night’s theme was “cars.”

Smart writers know that there are two genres that always sell — sex and coming of age stories. Or both. It didn’t surprise me that the first five stories contained these elements, whether it was a story about a woman losing her virginity in the back of a 1970 Mustang or a man’s having a remembrance of the family trip to Disneyworld in the Chevy Nova.

The sixth reader to be picked from the hat was an Asian-American man of about forty, with black cropped hair. His story was different than the others. He began his story by telling the audience that when he was in his thirties, he worked in Silicon Valley, slaving away for twelve hour days. One night, as he was driving home, he had a heart attack. He then proceeded to tell us all the specific details of what it feels like to have a heart attack. He described the tightening of the chest, the discomfort, and the fear.

I found it extremely difficult to listen to his story. I could feel my own chest tightening. Suddenly, there was a cry for help. An audience member, just five rows ahead of us, a fiftyish man with his family, had slumped over in his chair.

The MC ran to the microphone.

“Call 911! Call 911! We need a doctor,” he shouted.

Everybody fumbled with their phones, because the MC had made us shut them off when the show began. There were no doctors in the house, since the audience was mostly thirty-ish writers with soul patches, but someone ran up to the slumped man and relaxed his shirt.

I should remind you that the venue was jammed. Audience members were sitting in the center aisle. If the fire department had seen the way storytellers had to climb over people to reach the front stage, the entire venue would have been fined, or closed down.

“Everyone in the center aisle has to leave,” said the MC. “We need room for emergency.”

“I’m calling an ambulance!” cried someone in the first row, his phone dialing.

The audience in the center dispersed. Since Jen and I had our seats, we remained seated. The Asian storyteller hid in the corner, horror on his face, wondering if his Moth Slam story had just killed a man.

After ten minutes of chaos, the slumped man sat upright, like a zombie awakening from sleep. As the emergency workers entered the theater, the newly-awake man stood up and said that he was OK. The audience sighed with relief. The formerly-slumped man was now red-faced, not from illness, but from embarrassment. He walked over to the stage and asked the MC if he could say a few words to the audience, including those who were re-entering from outside. The audience was confused, wondering if this was some sort of stunt. But it wasn’t.

“I’m sorry to scare you,” said the man. “I fainted. This was not the first time this has ever happened to me. Whenever I hear stories of people in pain, I become so sensitive to their pain, that I begin to feel the sensations themselves and stop breathing. I once fainted in the middle of church. When this storyteller started telling his story about his heart attack, I had a feeling that this was going to happen, and I tried not to listen, to think about something else, but I could hear his words, and I felt compelled to listen, and as he described the pain in his heart, I felt a pain in my heart and — I’m sorry. Maybe I should go home.”

The audience clapped, and the fainting man left. The Asian storyteller returned to the stage and continued with his heart attack story, but the magic was gone. None of the remaining storytellers could match the real life drama. The fainting man both proved the power of storytelling — his intense reaction to another’s intense story — and WAS the best story of the night, because it happened in front of our eyes.

+++

This little true life tale encapsulates — for me — blogging during 2009. We all put our blog posts into the hat, hoping that they get noticed by others. We listen to each others stories. Some tell funny stories. Some tell sad stories. Some stories are more popular than others. Some of us are not community-oriented at all. Some of us just tap our feet, waiting for OUR chance to be on stage so we can tell our story. At times, we are confronted by real drama — like having someone collapse right in front of us — right in the middle of our story. It is times like these, that we put aside our competitiveness and bickering, and offer support to those who need it. And then, there are those moments that overwhelm us, when we get so involved in the lives of others that we feel dizzy and faint.

The only solution for that is to apologize to everyone, take a breather, and come back refreshed.

Writing, Reading, Laughing, Caring, Overwhelmed. That was Blogging in 2009.

See you in 2010.

Scheherazade

scherazarde

I know I will hear cries of bullshit from the mob, but the name of one of the baristas at my local coffee shop is Scheherazade. She is Persian. When I heard her friends call her by that name, my eyes lit up. Scheherazade is one of my favorite literary characters, the legendary Persian queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.

The famous story goes that every day the Persian King would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was betraying him. He had killed three thousand such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter.

According to Wikipedia, Scheherazade was described by in Sir Richard F. Burton’s translation this way:

“[She] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”

Against her father’s protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King’s chambers, she started to tell a story to the King, and The King liked it so much, he asked for another, but Scheherazade said there was not time as dawn was breaking, and much like a network promo, insisted that the next story was even more exciting.

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story, until, one thousand and one adventurous nights, and three sons later, Scheherazade who became his Queen.

Scheherazade is the ultimate storyteller. Can you imagine how good a blog she would have? There would be no writer’s block for her. She would have to come up with one amazing tale after another, or DIE. Of course, the King HAD to fall in love with her because of her amazing talent. She wouldn’t have time or energy to waste her time on the 140 character Twitter, avoiding the challenge of having to come up with a beginning, middle, and end.

Sometimes people ask me why I started blogging, and I never have a clear answer. I’m not trying to make money, help anyone “learn” anything, or even hone my writing skills. I just have fun writing stories, sometimes stupid and sometimes serious. I like to be honest and I also enjoy stretching my personality so a different part of my id shows up. I love that my mother reads my blog and it makes her laugh. I love the comments of long-time readers who know when I’m lying. I once got an email from a reader who told me she played with herself after reading one of my sexually-oriented posts. I cried after saving that email. That was worth more to me than four years of BlogHer ads. Sure, I want attention, like everyone, but the fact that I am communicating to you with my direct words, saying things that I would not in polite company makes me feel like I am floating in the air while fucking the angels in heaven.

I don’t get that feeling online anywhere else than on my blog.

When I heard the barista’s name called out on that day in the coffee shop, I immediately went up to her and asked excitedly, “Your name is Scheherazade?!”

She was taken aback. She was a pretty girl, no more that twenty-three, and probably got hit on by customers all the time, and I must have seemed like some sleazy guy using some opening line.

“Yes,” she said. Or just “Sherry.”

“Sherry! Oh no, Scheherazade is an amazing name. I’ve never met anyone named it before. You HAVE to use the full name.”

At this point, she looked like she was about to call the manager to tell him to throw me out of the establishment.

“Do you know who Scheherazade was?”

She said that it meant something, like a fruit or flower, in Farsi. Who knows? Maybe it does, but clearly she was ignorant about the important meaning.

“Scheherazade was the beautiful AMAZING woman who told the 1001 Tales in the Arabian Nights!”

“Excuse me,” she said. “I have another customer.”

She dashed away to make a cappuccino, eager to leave the aging pervert with the graying hair. She had no interest at all in me or my story. Or even the story of her own name!

But luckily, YOU do. And I see this as a sign. Even Scheherazade, the ultimate storyteller, is not interesting until there is a story built around her. So I finally dragged myself off Twitter and Facebook because I had to write a story about Scherazarde, the barista in the Redondo Beach Coffee Company.

On, Saturday, July 25, at 3PM — Amy of Doobleh-vah and I will be offering a Room of Your Own at BlogHer called Blogging as Storytelling. It is for those who care about Schehrazade more than giveaways. It will be so good that you will have to return to your hotel room afterwards to play with yourself.

The Easy Chair

chair2

Young Renaldo was invisible to his parents.  He sat all day in front of the television and watched cartoons.  He wanted to run away, but where would he go?  It was easier to just turn into an easy chair.  This way, he could sit in the living room forever, and not have to worry about eating, sleeping, or doing any homework.

One night, after dinner, Renaldo’s parents finally noticed that Renaldo was missing.  They asked each other about Renaldo’s whereabouts.  They shrugged.

“Who knows?” said Renaldo’s mother.

Renaldo’s parents instantly forgot about him because they had a more pressing problem.  An easy chair had suddenly appeared in the middle of the living room.  Their apartment was tiny, and the addition of the easy chair made it difficult for the parent’s to pass, en route to the bathroom.  The next day, Renaldo’s father shipped the chair off to the Salvation Army.

The easy chair sat in the city’s Salvation Army store for the next twenty-five years.  Renaldo’s parents died, having forgotten about Renaldo a long time ago.  One day, Sarah, a divorced and anxiety-ridden woman, came into the store.  She had recently moved into a new apartment after being laid off from her job.  She was looking for an easy chair.  She noticed Renaldo, now a thirty-five year old easy chair.  She was not impressed with the chair.  It was dusty.  The attendant at the store, a balding black man with a silver tooth, appeared behind Sarah, eager to finally get rid of this old chair.

“You can have this one at 70% off,” he said.

Sarah figured it was a good deal, and bought the easy chair.  The attendant helped her tie the chair to the roof of her car, and Sarah brought Renaldo back to her small home, in a less-than-fashionable part of town.

Sarah cleaned up the easy chair, vacuuming away the dust, and placed it in front of her TV.  Renaldo was overjoyed.  He had not watched television for twenty-five years, and he sorely missed it.  And there were so many more cable channels now!  Food channels!  Decorating channels!  Cartoon channels!

In the morning, Sarah would turn on the Exercise Channel! — and do her aerobics with a group of health-oriented women on the screen, one of them, the always-smiling instructor, shouting out platitudes like “You go girl!”  Sarah would do her exercising in her panties and bra.  Renaldo was mesmerized by Sarah’s womanly body.  This was so much more interesting than any cartoon!   As Sarah did her “step” routine, Renaldo would watch her round ass move to the musical beat.  Renaldo’s favorite time was at night, during Sarah’s favorite primetime TV shows, “The Bachelor,” “CSI Miami,” and”American Idol,” because she would lean back in the easy chair, relaxed, and Renaldo felt her body next to hers.  He would feel powerful and exciting sensations, and have thoughts and feelings that were dormant for so many years.

One day, Sarah woke up in the easy chair, having spent the night dreaming her night with the shirtless Sawyer on the island of “Lost.”  She stood up from the chair and felt sick.  She threw up.  She went to her doctor.

“You’re pregnant,” he told her.

This was a mind-blowing announcement.  Sarah had not had sex with anyone since she was divorced from Andrew two years ago.  Sarah was a woman of reason, and would not even entertain the thought of some religious experience, or that she was carrying Satan’s baby, like in a movie.  There had to be a logical explanation for her pregnancy.

She gave the issue some thought, and concluded that she felt the most comfortable when she was sitting in the easy chair.  She had spent hours in that chair.  Sometimes, after a hard day at the office, she would just sit there, her eyes closed, and imagined that the easy chair was a handsome man who massaged her breasts and kissed her on the neck and whispered love poems into her ear.

“Are you my lover?” Sarah asked the easy chair, turning to Renaldo.

Her acknowledgement of Renaldo’s existence released Renaldo from the fears and hurts that had plagued him since childhood.  He was finally noticed by someone — a beautiful woman who he loved, a woman who was eager for his touch.

Renaldo suddenly appeared before Sarah as a handsome thirty-five year old man.  He had returned to reality, and he was happy.  And Sarah was happy.  Sarah stopped watching TV, not needing the distraction any more.  Every night, she would come home from work, and she would make passionate love to Renaldo.  Renaldo loved Sarah’s changing body and asked her to marry him.   She said yes.  Several months later, the baby was born, a boy.  They named him Sal, after the Salvation Army where Renaldo and Sarah first met.

Dealing with a baby was difficult for Sarah.  The baby’s crying kept her up at night and her focus revolved around the demanding child.  When she had some free time, Sarah just wanted to escape and watch TV.  Renaldo grew irritable, missing how things used to be with his wife.  Now, everything was about “the baby.”  Sarah had no patience for the nagging Renaldo.  One night, she had a dream that Renaldo transformed back into a comfortable old easy chair. It was so much easier back then.  When she woke up, Renaldo, the man was gone. Just like she hoped, Renaldo had returned to being a thirty-five year old easy chair.  That night, after putting the beautiful baby to bed, Sarah relaxed in the easy chair and watched Sawyer take off his shirt on “Lost.”  She was now happy.

Older posts