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In the Handsome Sunshine


Originally published February 19, 2019

A table sits for nearly 30 years, in the foyer of a home.

The years bleed through – scratches from The Owner’s dropped keys, cracks at the joints. A sensible provincial stain and shades of Amish crafting lend a restrained stature. The table doesn’t think it gets its due credit – true, the hidden supports underneath are a little warped, but nobody can see that. With a broad top and solid legs, devoid of fluff, it stands watch at the door.

The perennial observer.

But something is missing. The table doesn’t need anything – it’s fine the way it is – but it’s conceivable that a lamp could improve some things. The Owner is off on a mission to find the right one. With each new lamp that arrives, the table considers the possibilities – methodical in his examinations. The table analyzes the details. He is picky.

Months turn to years without the right fit. Dull ones, bright ones, light ones, dim ones. You name the lamp, the table has probably at least flirted with the possibility. He likes them all, in a way. Except maybe those pop-color, college move-in specials at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The table has tried lamps that have utilitarian, beige shades, and the kinds with colorful floral patterns. There is even one with preppy stripes, which the table quite likes.

But then one day, a lamp arrives and the table is stunned. Emerald green glass – is this a banker’s lamp? It has curves and drama, and the table can just see what a sexy glow it would lend. A strong pairing. And it’s an antique – it’s been used, it has a story, just like the table. It’s seen some things, you know? This may be the lamp.

But there is one problem. The bulb is missing. And it’s a very unusual bulb, you see – you cannot just order one on Amazon, particularly not if you are a table (no thumbs). But the lamp stays – The Owner can’t give it up, to the table’s relief. One day the bulb might turn up. And just the very idea of the glow of that green shade keeps the table enthralled. And in the meantime, she looks so nice sitting here.

The table is enthralled, but occasionally enraged. This lamp makes everything a little harder than it was before – the basic beige shade never fussed this way. The striped shade was never this demanding! The green glass lamp has so many questions. She is unpredictable at times.

Occasionally, the lamp slides off the table. Could it be that the warped supports – which were always so well hidden before – throw her off balance? The table can see a chip developing on a corner of her green glass. Damaged goods. Maybe she is repelled by the table’s scent – furniture polish, but also cigarette smoke. Maybe it’s just too high up here and she feels unsafe? Occasionally the lamp runs away to another spot in the house. But she seems to migrate back. She clearly wants to be here. And let’s be honest, the table is not going to change.

It just wants her light.

The Owner ignores the busted lamp and the warped table for a few years in the entryway. Finally one day, the lamp disappears. Thrown out? Donated? The table is never sure. It is clear now that the lamp belongs somewhere else. Certainly not here.

Either way, the table is sure at this point that he does not care. He will find another lamp, one better suited to his space. He was looking for a lamp when he found that one, you know. Let’s see…everyone really liked that striped one, where did she go? Let’s try her for awhile. A quick twist of the knob, and a pale incandescence covers the table. She lights things up beautifully – the table has never looked better.

The clock on the wall and the coat hanger concur – this striped lamp was always the right one here, in this space. The curtains agree, wholeheartedly – this was the way it was always supposed to be.

The emerald glass lamp is forgotten as quickly as it arrived. The table is satisfied for quite some time. But he sometimes thinks of the emerald green lamp and what she could have been. The Owner occasionally finds a tarnish ring where her exterior left a permanent mark. Damn antiques. Memories of her get tucked in the back of a drawer behind some old papers and a cigar cutter. Even so, the table is complete – shining proudly in the light of the striped lamp.

Nothing is missing now.

But tastes change. One day the owner is tired of the table. A new table arrives – something lighter and more modern, a little less stoic than this rustic thing. As the striped lamp is carried away to a different place, the table is puzzled and numb. Is this what it is to be discarded? As the table is carried out of the foyer, the mover’s boot makes a sickening crunch sound as it crushes something that glimmered behind the table’s back leg. The table finally sees the shards of glass, hidden for years out of view.

He never knew. The missing bulb.

The front door closes and movers sit the table down on the sidewalk. Fresh air and daylight envelop his stain streaks, the one broken handle on the left drawer that nobody talked about.

The table looked for so long for a lamp, spent so much time thinking of the emerald shade. They both assumed it was her fault it didn’t work out, but now the table sees the truth.

All he ever really wanted was sunshine. The glow of the handsome sunshine.

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