Zen Coffee Table – a short story

Some time ago Jeff and Amanda asked me to assist them in creating a Zen interior for their new home. When I arrived at their porch Jeff answered the door; he seemed to fill the whole entry with his presence, his chest an expanse of burnt orange with a longhorn across his pectorals, his beard two days old. Behind him came Amanda a petite blonde with neatly bobbed hair and pink silk blouse. They both wore jeans, his, slightly grubby hanging from his waist, hers, designer, clinging tight to her slender legs. Jeff proffered a beer but I accepted Amanda’s offer of herbal tea. We sat and talked and, as I sensed conflicting vibes in the recently renovated house, I asked for half an hour alone in their living room. They acquiesced and left me to breathe deeply and feel the space. I sat with closed eyes to shut out their discordant colored walls, glaring area rugs, and eclectic clutter of ornaments and paintings. Soon I felt the silence and essence of the house and knew that it had Zen potential. I accepted their commission and quickly had them enthusiastic about my design concepts. We began the repainting, and they authorized the purchase of several new pieces of furniture. However, when it came to selecting a coffee table, I suggested that we visit a local Zen furniture outlet together.

When we entered the store Amanda, in another immaculate silk blouse, immediately walked up to an unstained blond birch table, the same color as her hair and blouse. It had an ethereal aluminum base and the aluminum protruded through the table’s top surface to form a planter in which some bonsai plants were growing. Her high heels clicked on the bamboo wood floor as she walked around it. She trailed her hand along the smooth edge and tapped her painted fingers on its surface.

“I like this one. It is perfect,” she said.

As she spoke Jeff brushed past her and strode up to a rectangular black eucalyptus table with two solid sides firmly anchoring it to earth, its solid permanence seemed strangely in tune with his burlesque figure. “What about this one?” he said.

Amanda remained close to the birch table, she barely looked up and said “No, I don’t think so; it is too heavy, much too masculine.”

Jeff flopped in a chair beside the black table; the chair seemed to vibrate and the leather creaked as he dropped his weight into their support. He leaned and put his car keys and mobile telephone on the table placing them so that they clanked on its surface. He flung back his arms revealing his sweat stained armpits in a pose of relaxation. “I like it. This is the right one. I can imagine some beer on it and sitting right here watching a football game.”

Amanda walked over, her heels clicked on the floor. She flicked her bangs out of her eyes, looked down on him. She tapped him on the shoulder, not a gentle tap almost a slap. “Absolutely not, it is all wrong. It is clunky and crude. I bet you’d soon have your feet up on it”

“Of course, furniture is to be used not looked at, where could I put them if there were a plant growing in the middle?” Jeff grinned, a sneaky almost boyish grin, and glanced at me for approval, and then, staring at Amanda, he put his booted feet up on the table.

“How could you embarrass me like this? Don’t you have any class? Get your disgusting feet and dirty boots off that table” She reached down and tried to push his feet; her silk shirt rustled against his jeans. “The plant is what makes my table so special. Don’t you remember how pretty mother’s house always is with her fresh flowers on the coffee table? It even smells good.”
“Your mother!” said Jeff as he straightened himself slightly in his chair.

“Well, her home is a lot nicer than your folk’s home which always reeks of fried chicken.” Amanda’s agitation seemed to be making her perspire accentuating the aroma of her perfume which wafted around her as they spoke.

“Yes, Mum cooks, which is more than I can say for some,” said Jeff

“Mother has a full time job as I do. We live in a modern world. I wish that I could see you lifting a hand to help.”

“What do you mean, I made breakfast this morning.”

“Oh yeah, and it came straight from Starbucks, very impressive.”

“Well, where were you? Weren’t you talking on the phone to one of those air-head friends of yours?”

“Actually it was a business call, something you wouldn’t’ appreciate. You never take any interest in my activities or understand the demands of my job.”

“I work just as hard as you. And, by the way, understanding is a joke; you don’t even try to understand me.”

“I do so, you’re not that complex.”

By now their raised voices were filling the store with their resonance. I tried to catch one of their attentions but they were only focused on each other.

Jeff went on, “If you even tried to understand me then you’d take the time to watch a little football with me. You might enjoy it.”

“I know what you really saying, you’re saying that you wish that I were a sports buff like Sandy, that overweight ex-girlfriend of yours.”

“No I wasn’t, but since you brought up her name, she is practical. She wouldn’t go for a dumb table which looks like it is about to take off except there’s a plant stuck in the middle of its stupid surface. And, by the way, she isn’t overweight she is just not a skeleton in heels.”

“If you feel that way then take your keys and get out of here.” Amanda picked up Jeff’s keys and threw them into his lap.

Jeff got up, and reached for his mobile phone which he put in his pocket. Then, he put out his hand and pushed Amanda aside. She staggered and fell into a chair as he stalked out. He didn’t even look back. I had to drive Amanda home.

A few days later Jeff called me to tell me that he and Amanda were separating and that they wished me to sell all the new furniture and most of their original things. They were selling the house and Jeff had already moved back in with Sandy. As soon as the house was sold Amanda was going to live with her mother for a while.

5 thoughts on “Zen Coffee Table – a short story

  1. I somehow missed this one. A rather extreme illustration of the difference between man and woman thinking, but it does happen doesn’t it? Marriage is not a contract for wimps, it requires a willingness to consider the other’s point of view and to make concessions throughout a lifetime, but it’s well worth the effort.

  2. Hi there you have a good site over here! Thanks for posting this interesting stuff for us! If you keep up this great work I’ll visit your weblog again. Thanks!

  3. You are right. An interior designer friend told me of a couple (clients of hers) who separated over a coffee table and I speculated that they must have had a shaky, perhaps brief relationship based on all the wrong reasons to so so. I didn’t ask my friend for particulars. I hope that the story is OK with this premisis. Cheerio, Jane

  4. As I was reading, I could not help wondering what brought them together in the first place – speaking of Sandy in such terms hints that Amanda and Jeff could not have been together for long.

    How quickly some grow apart – especially since they obviously were never one and all it took was a hair trigger.

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