Get Built

I may be cheap, but I still appreciate hard wood.


I signed my first lease. It was only for a year, it was only for a dinky railroad-style, astroturf backyard and light water pressure. The process was a haze; months of emails and cashier’s checks. It was only after I moved in that I realized I didn’t have a bed. I didn’t really have much of anything.

It’s no joke- in New York, making rent is cause for celebration. I had just paid rent and security. I was broke. I had a mattress on the floor. Another thing about New York that is no joke is cockroaches. Night two, I see one scuttle through a corner. I developed a sudden and intense desire to sleep higher above the ground.

The Brooklyn IKEA is a fortress. The outside is hulking, a massive LEGO sculpture of primary colors and sans serif font. If you go at the right time it’s an adult Disneyland of sorts; 300 square foot houses made chic and livable. Hulking closets that you would have never thought you needed. Tidy packages and minimalist efficiency. If you go at the wrong time, the smell of Swedish meatballs is permeating. Babies are crying. Couples, haggard by the time they reach the warehouse, bicker over shelving, tongs or money plants.

All the same, I had thought, bless IKEA, where someone like me can really own a bed. Sure, it will be the cheapest one. Forty dollars to be exact. And sure I’ll have put it together, an agonizing task for someone so haphazard. But I will own a bed. A simple little pinewood contraption, just enough to get by.

And that’s what it was for about four days. Just enough to get by. A little creaky, but you get what you pay for. And maybe a void wasn’t filled, but some part of me felt more developed. A bed, with legs and a headboard.

You get what you pay for. It was mid afternoon and It struck me- a sudden boredom with masturbation, with its convenience. I thought, god, doesn’t really matter who it is, I just want to get laid. I want to get laid now. The first guy I messaged came over. He was slight and nice and smelled like pistachios. We had mid-afternoon sex; sweaty and lazy, nothing ingenious. My vibrator has the same compact efficiency as IKEA, but sometimes you just need the distinct human-ness of saliva and sweat.

Just as the tempo picks up a massive rift forms down the center of my mattress. Twice in my life, I have been at the meeting of two tectonic plates. This felt about the same. Immediately we buckled into a crater, framed by ineffectual pinewood. The center beam had snapped, my new bed had been compromised, and the worst of it was that the sex had been about 2 on the Richter scale.

Two weeks go by and the bed doesn’t get fixed. I guess that’s my own fault. But every night, as I curl up around the carcass of my bed frame, I am angry at IKEA. I think of the blue-yellow edifice, its pretension, out there on its isle in Red Hook. I am the butt of the joke.

That need for saliva and sweat led me back to IKEA, sometime after 11. It was still lit inside, but distinctly empty. All the same, tinny music was playing somewhere, the escalator was running. Freighter boats and Manhattan cast red and green lights over the black water of the Erie Basin. Cranes and rusted machinery surface like crackens. Another car pulls into the parking lot, probably up to something equally as hedonistic. They see that they’re not alone and drive off.

Before I bought my $40 bed I asked, am I kidding myself? Who am I to own a bed frame? Did this have to be symbolic? Of course, owning furniture always is. And I have always moved quickly, frequently, acting on whims, fantasies, and indulgences. But a bed is anchoring, at least in some very small way. So is a lease.

I had made myself an archetype. When I told my friend how I had broken my bed she said, without missing a beat, “well of course you did.” It’s like the rest of my sex life, or my life in general; when the bulk of what you do is idiosyncratic, it cycles back around to mundane.

But the water was pretty, and there was that little thrill in the pit of my stomach that the lights of the city sometimes give me. I felt rebellious, the patriarch of IKEA looming nearby. I was pressed up against the banister. The land surrounding was over-manicured, littered with modern seating and walkways that wound around to nowhere. I came twice, aided by angles and a meaningful grasp around the sides of my hips. Afterwards, I fell in damp grass. In the vastness of the space, of the water and the well-lit emptiness that just begged for misconduct, I had really no idea if anybody had been around to see. That wasn’t really the important part.

I laid on the grass and felt distinct release, a looseness in my spine, a circulation in the toes, a void in my brain. Lightheaded, feeling the way time meanders after a good orgasm. It had been accomplished without a bed.

At home, I turn the frame on its side, hanging up the slats like a room divider between where my roommate has to pass. It feels right. There’s a power in making things work on your own terms.

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Dana B