listen to this story
She was leaving Culver City and wanted to do it right, but the three-man moving crew showed up over an hour late. After she signed the forms, they avoided her, as if their lateness were somehow her fault. “The grown-ups are working here,” their expressions seemed to say when she advised against, for example, stacking boxes labeled “Encyclopedias 1945-1981” on top of boxes labeled “Tiffany-style lamps.” “Can you direct us to the man of the house?” their expressions said when she explained what Alvin Sterling was, and why it was fragile. But she knew enough about men to not completely hate these three. And after all, they were carrying the literal weight of the upper middle class, especially on a cloudless July afternoon.
But then she saw them dragging her new couch, its Iroko-wood legs skidding across the lawn. The damage was beneath, invisible, but the cracks would splinter upward. She jogged to the moving truck. “My husband,” she said, grabbing their attention for the first time. She didn’t have a husband, but they didn’t know that. She motioned for them to set down the couch, and they did. She grabbed four Frisbees, wedged between the cargo blankets and the dolly, and tossed them to the movers, who reluctantly caught them. “My husband uses these to move heavy stuff. You just put them under the legs and slide the couch. Work smarter, not harder, he always says.” The men cocked their heads, pursed their lips, as if to say “Sounds okay. Why not?” And thus, her furniture was saved.
The rest of the afternoon, she passed on her imaginary husband’s advice. It was better to store framed photographs against the truck’s side, where they could be protected by loose blankets and blouses. Once, just once, someone asked what her husband might do, and she was almost too taken aback to answer. She found herself pleased to direct them, happy knowing that she wouldn’t have to catalogue broken items as she unpacked.
Later that evening, she sat Indian-style on the empty living room floor, sipping whiskey from the bottle as the sun’s rays retreated across the hardwood floor. She’d spent the day discussing her imaginary husband with the movers, and even though they were gone, she wondered what such a husband would be like. Definitely in his late forties, like her, tan with gentle lines across his forehead. But as much as she could picture his face, she couldn’t imagine him in motion, couldn’t picture how he might walk through the door. Certainly not with a rose between his teeth. Maybe he’d enter quietly with a joke about drinking alone in the dark. But finally, she decided, her head nodding a little from the liquor, he’d open the door just enough for his face to show and would eye her warily as she did the same. And when he entered the room, she’d stand and they would circle, each waiting for the other to speak first.