I sat on the scrumptious white twill slipcovered sofa and my boyfriend, Chris, sat next to me, holding my hand. Bob sat across from us, holding a notepad and a pen. He didn’t say anything, just kind of looked at me like, It’s OK, take your time. I’ll wait. I didn’t know where to start, couldn’t even recall how Chris and I had reached this point so quickly in our relationship. One minute we were going along, getting to know each other, dancing in the produce department at Wegmans and sickening my younger son with our public displays of affection, and the next, we were here. With issues. Issues we were about to unload on a man we just met.
I could barely look at Bob, his kind face, and his speckled brown sweater and crisp, Jerry Seinfeld-style pressed blue jeans, so I killed a few seconds staring at the gorgeous pine coffee table in front of us. It was piled high with glossy hardcover books and cream-colored candles in glistening hurricane glasses, the combined effect of which was to make you feel comfortable, at home, and ever-so-slightly envious because your home doesn’t have a single item of furniture the dogs haven’t turned into a chew toy. At least mine doesn’t.
Of course, it was also designed to make you relax and pour your heart out which, after a really long minute, I started to do.
“There are all these guns, you know? Sniper rifles and shotguns all over the place.” I offered tentatively. “Skulls, too. Deer skulls mostly, and one that belonged to a bear.”
“Guns and skulls,” Bob repeated, looking me right in the eyes. “Sounds scary.”
“It is,” I replied softly. “And there’s, like, hatchets and saws and what look like leg irons hanging on the walls.” I paused and glanced from Bob, who was busy writing on his notepad, back to the perfectly-appointed pine table and down at the fluffy white area rug beneath my feet. Between my 14-year-old and his friends, my knack for spilling whatever I’m eating or drinking and the dogs’ unsurpassed talent for vomiting on every available surface, I wouldn’t give it or the sofa sixty seconds in my house.
“Hatchets and leg irons and skulls, oh my.” Bob said, smiling gently. “What else?”
“A four-foot iguana,” I replied, looking at Chris. “It escaped from its cage and now, well, God knows where it is.” I shuddered at the thought of that damn reptile camped out under the kitchen sink or on a shelf in the closet, just waiting to pounce on me.
“You figure it’s going to get you, huh?” He said, reading my mind.
“I get the sense there’s something else,” he prodded.
What is it with these guys? I wondered. How do they always know when you’re holding back? Maybe coming here wasn’t the best move after all. I mean, I’m all for getting things off my chest, but this was about to become embarrassing. I took a deep breath, looked Bob right in the eyes, and said, Screw it. I’m telling him the truth. Otherwise this is a waste of time.
“Well, there’s this oosik.”
“Oosik?” Bob asked.
“It’s um, a, you know,” I stammered, wishing I could just sink into the sofa. “An organ that used to belong to a walrus.”
Bob’s eyes grew wide. “Wow. Poor guy probably misses it.”
If he doesn’t, Mrs. Walrus certainly does, I thought to myself. The freakin’ thing’s two feet long.
“And the newspapers,” Chris offered, squeezing my hand. “You need to tell him about the newspapers,”
I hesitated. I didn’t think Bob could help with that and, besides, I didn’t want the man to think I was completely crazy. Chris thought otherwise though, and proceeded to confess for me. “There’s a pile of newspapers she’s convinced is going to attack her in the night.”
“Skulls, guns, an AWOL iguana, a walrus… appendage,” Bob said gently, looking up at me over the rim of his reading glasses, “and clutter. Those’ll strike fear in the heart of any woman.”
Ya got that right, I thought.
“Sounds like a real man cave,” he continued, turning to Chris. “All that’s missing is a moose head over the fireplace.”
“It’s an elk,” I said.
“A twelve-point elk,” Chris clarified.
Our new confidant didn’t bat an eye. Clearly, he expected such revelations. The guy was a pro. Totally used to seeing couples like us and totally able, I hoped, to help us.
“Alright then,” he replied, placing his notepad on the table and folding his hands in front of him. “Tell me, what specifically brought you here today?”
You mean beyond the mammal baculum, the weaponry and the Tower of London-like torture devices my man uses as decorative accessories?
“His Cat in the Hat couch,” I whispered, flooded simultaneously with guilt at badmouthing my honey’s expensive sofa, and relief at finally telling someone about the frighteningly uncomfortable, creepily curved Early Lorax-period perch smack in the center of Chris’s living room. A sofa so narrow, not even little Cindy Lou Who could sit on it without falling off and breaking her little Who butt.
“Yeah,” Chris added, “she says my couch looks like something Dr. Seuss designed.”
“And the rug?” Bob asked, knowing exactly what I was going to say.
“Zebra skin,” I responded.
He looked at Chris. “You know that’s gonna have to go, too, right? Plus the sofa, a couple skulls, the guns. And I suggest putting Mr. Walrus’s privates in storage, if you want her to be comfortable. Women like warmth, candles, flowers — “
“I have plants,” Chris interjected, practically pleading. “You like the plants, right?”
“You mean the two huge Venus Fly Traps flanking the fireplace?” I replied, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Absolutely. They complement the elk head.” I squeezed his knee. “Seriously sweetheart, you’re to be congratulated. You’ve created the perfect man cave.”
“Sounds to me like all that’s missing is a pool table and a bar.”
“They’re in the basement.” I smiled.
“Along with a wine cellar, flat screen TV, dart board, the whole shebang,” Chris replied.
At that we all laughed and Bob — patient, knowing Bob — said the words I’d been hoping to hear since we sat down.
“OK, I can definitely help you two. Come on. We’ll start with sofas, then circle back around to the other stuff.” And then he grabbed his notepad, stood and added, “We’ve got some really beautiful chests you might like for storing the skulls, Susan, and, if you fold it up right, maybe even the rug.”
Bet I could tuck the oosik in there too, I thought.
“Sound good?” Bob prompted.
“Sounds great,” Chris replied standing and pulling me up with him. “You feel better now?”
“Absolutely,” I replied, wrapping my arm around his waist and following Bob toward the front of the store. “You know how I love Pottery Barn.”