Stephanie Barbé Hammer

Round Table

           We four bought it unfinished.  He – the roommate’s boyfriend – showed us  — her, me and my boyfriend — how to sand it down. And then finish it.  There were 2 kinds of – I want to call them emery boards – but what I mean is sandpaper, I guess. It was hard work but fun work, and we couldn’t screw up too bad because we didn’t have to cut anything or shape anything.  Just wear it down.

           The boyfriend was an annoying person. He belonged to her of the big brain and the even bigger breasts that she always smashed into too small bras.   We other two  — me of the B cup and he of the big but humble mind — came to dislike her as well but that came later.  For now it was all sweetness and light and the joy of sharing an apartment amongst surprising trees in SoCal just off the 60.   That’s how I remember it.

           So let’s not get to the irritation yet, lets stay with the sanding. The surprising pleasure of it. Its complexity: how you have to do the legs and the underbelly of the table – all the secret parts of furniture, even the simplest kind.    And the sound like a cough of the sanded wood:  persistent, dry but healthy.  We worked, and the boyfriend supervised.

           Then the surprise: we were going to put on the stain with the brushes and the tin of clear liquid and he said wait.  Let’s put a backgammon board on it. I didn’t like the idea. I wanted the table plain and smooth like we’d planned it and I wanted the lightwoods; always I have loved the look of that.  But he insisted and he was pushy – ok already he is beginning to get on my nerves I can see that – but she of the tiny bra and big breasts beamed at him, and we – I and he, the other much quieter boyfriend – said ok. The pushy boyfriend began to draw the outline of the board. He used magic marker I think – I can’t remember.  But I can see us filling in the points for the pieces – the long triangles and I found the fun again.  And then the finishing.

           We kept that table a long time. She graduated, and the boyfriend — still a drop out — kept promising to marry her.  I soldiered on in school with the quieter boyfriend, who was silently brilliant, and in the end it was us – the doubtful and the soft ones – who got the table, for the others didn’t want it.

           We two sat at that table in a new apartment near bigger trees filled with herons, and we played the game with pieces and we played the game with bodies.  Holding off on the finish.  Sanding ourselves down.