Broken chair: A short story

Three empty office chairs sit in a white room.
Libreshot/Creative Commons

A slam. Claire never thinks to shut the door slowly.

It’s just me, you and the sound of your rapid typing permeating the silence. I’m not sure why it feels colder in here.

I try to focus on my own work. Painting serenity is harder than you’d think. Serenity? It sounds like one of those hotshot buzzwords people flash at you just to sound fancy, like neuroplasticity or patriarchy. I think of Mom’s burnt walnut cookies, or the hum of Saturday Night Live in the background as I start to doze off and reality eludes me.

I timidly stroke the page with my dried-up paintbrush. Click click. I think of adding trees. Everyone likes trees. Click click. Trees are cliché. I decide to start over. Click. Click.

Your keyboard’s presence is larger than mine.

Suddenly, I watch you jolt to the left. Your back wheel falls off, tanking an entire hemisphere of your chair. A flurry of curse words follow. You jab your pen into the desk.

Then you stand, clutching your head tightly.

“It hurts, it hurts,” you slur.

Inebriated from stress, you stumble back and forth. You can’t rest your head, you complain, and the throbbing won’t stop.

Why don’t you just sit on the couch?

“This fucking chair — ah, this chair can’t support me!”

The couch is right there.

I finally gain the courage to make my humble suggestion, to which you scowl.

I’m dizzy with flashbacks from last fall. I remember the conversation in Uncle Roger’s living room.

An exchange of unmeant words. Claire’s favorite wine glass shattered on the floor.

“Why don’t we just go in and talk to them, sweetie? How about we just try?”

Mom never knew how to get to you. I noticed your entire corpse tense at the thought of rehab.

“Can’t we just enjoy this meal?” Aunt Margo asked.

She held onto Thomas, who wouldn’t stop making fire truck noises.

Finally, Roger put his foot down, literally.

“We can’t help you if you aren’t willing.”

Mom shot him a look.

Flustered, he seemed to be fumbling for the right words.

“We can’t… we want to help. We want to help you so badly. But you have to be willing, too.”

The sound of more glass shattering and you were gone.

You’re groaning now. You seem ready to break into tears.

Just sit.

But the couch won’t suffice. You’re looking for more than something to fall back on.

This past February I offered to help you make that phone call. It wasn’t enough.

You’re shaking your head vigorously. You slap the wall and lean into your left arm, as if you’re considering sinking into that corner. You seem to reject that thought.

You need legs. Something sturdy. You need something to support all the weight you’ve been mindlessly harboring.

The support of a chair is not supplemental. The support of a chair is necessary.

“I just — I don’t know what to do,” you stutter.

A chair would crumble without its legs. The upper half of a chair can’t stand on its own.


I cannot be your chair.


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Contact Shaked Salem at [email protected].