Monday, March 4, 2013

Home Improvement

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I live a couple miles from the Brooklyn Ikea. This particular Ikea lives in Red Hook, which is an area of Brooklyn that I very much like but that many people tend to avoid. This is mostly because no subways go there, and also - Red Hook's got an Ikea on its face.

My relationship with Ikea is a traditional one. A terrifying one. Its endless showroom is a labyrinth of despair. You wander through it, admiring the room setups, and next thing you know you're curled up at the base of a Malm queen frame and repressed childhood memories are surfacing.

My first Ikea trip was in college, and it was a doozy. I was completely unprepared. I hadn't written down any row numbers or bin numbers - I hadn't even browsed the merchandise online to give myself an idea of what I might be purchasing. I was an amateur. Three hours into that solo trip I was a broken woman.

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So when I turned to Manfriend Andy and declared that we were going to Ikea on that cold and rainy Saturday afternoon, his apprehension was obvious.

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I can't explain it. Every experience I've had at Ikea has been, above all, damaging to both my psyche and my central nervous system. But I'm always going back for more. What is it? Is it the meatball aroma pumping fresh from the cafeteria at all hours of the day? Is it the lack of employee supervision? Is it the umlauts? This is not a rhetorical question.

Motivations aside, there we were. At the threshold of New York City's only Ikea. Across the harbor we see the Statue of Liberty - she's a symbol of the American dream, a gift from the French, a Swede enthusiast, and Lincoln's assassin. Right? Did she - she murdered Lincoln, right? I haven't seen the movie.

I can't help but imagine a big ol' copper tear of joy welling up in her eye as she watches thousands of American citizens march obediently into the enormous automatic doors of Ikea on a daily basis.

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I know the risks involved with taking a significant other to Ikea. I've seen that episode of 30 Rock. Ikea has been known to rip the most stable partnerships apart at the seams. I guess I wanted to test that theory. I was getting sick of sitting in my apartment, so my immediate thought was to test Andy's patience and threaten the stability of our relationship.

My theory was that if I tried to pick some fights and get all the bickering out of the way right off the bat, we could enjoy ourselves later while admiring the flatware and storage solutions. We started wandering through the showroom.

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I abandoned that experiment immediately.

I was done with the showroom. The showroom is really only for people who are looking for some heavy duty merchandise - your couches, your shelving, your bed frames. You admire the adorable little living room they've set up, and you write down the row and bin numbers of the items you wish to purchase with a golf pencil on a flimsy little Ikea notebook. Later, in the warehouse, you'll find the corresponding rows and bins and slide the small yet impossibly heavy box onto the floor. As it sits there, unmoving, you'll stare at it and question every decision made so far in your life up to this point.


I wasn't in the market for the big items. I wanted little essentials, and I wanted them cheap. So we made our way downstairs. The ground floor of Ikea is another endless labyrinth - except in this one, you have to navigate the crowded halls with a large unwieldy shopping cart to accommodate the bullshit accumulation.


Andy and I strolled lazily through the kitchen accessories. I vaguely wondered what the spatula situation was back at the apartment, while staring at a bucket of spatulas. Andy was looking at math on his phone, which is something that he does. In my left-side peripheral vision I saw a blind woman shuffle past my aisle holding a long rod with a ball at the end, which clicked sharply when it came in contact with the floor. Seconds after seeing her pass me on my left, she appeared abruptly on my right, breathing directly onto my shoulder. Assuming that I was in her way, I moved to allow her a clear path - but the moment I shifted my weight she grabbed me firmly by the elbow and motioned for me to lean closer. Cautiously, I obliged.

The white noise of so many shoppers' voices became muffled and quiet as she calmly stated -


She opened her eyes - milky white, devoid of pupils - and, still holding tight onto my elbow, she found my hands and pressed something hard and cold into them. Without another word, she turned to leave. Full volume of the room was restored, and the loud clicks of the seeing rod blended in with the din of the crowd. I watched her until she turned a corner. Only then did I look down to see what she had given me.


I knew the woman had intended for me to open the locket. In the small amount of time it had been in my hand, it had become hot to the touch. Which was unnerving.

It grew hotter with every passing second, and my curiosity got the best of me. I dug my fingernail into the seam and it opened with no objections.


The blinding light saturated all colors in the room and for a moment I was sure that my eyeballs were being cooked in their sockets. I felt my kneecaps hit linoleum and in my confusion I blurted out the only thing that seemed relevant:


The light was fire, and it was seeping into my every pore. The pain was unreal. I reached out, palms up, desperate for release.

And it came. As quickly as the light had flooded the space, so it was gone. The locket fell to the floor with a dull thud, its innards charred black. I stood up, and a forceful warmth starting somewhere in the pit of my stomach spread outward through my veins.

Andy rushed to my side. "What in the fuck was that??" He was thoroughly confused and deeply concerned. I sighed, and gathered my thoughts. It was now clear to me what had just happened, and I knew that saying it out loud would solidify the truth in it.


So, alright. Everything after the spatula bucket part is in a bit of a gray area, truth-wise. 


But I mean, did you really want to read about the kind of towels I chose, and how I splurged and got the $5 hangers instead of the $4 hangers, and how Andy and I ate chicken fingers and meatballs in the cafeteria before driving back to my apartment to drink wine and watch Hulu?

No. Because this is the internet.