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(SAF) Dining room table

The argument was one of the many that he had forgotten long ago. He had been dragged out to the furniture store on the afternoon when Reggina and Livorno were playing an inconsequential league match that he had nevertheless taken a great interest in. Point of fact: he took a great interest in all matches. She knew this and knew that to get anything done, she would have to tear him away from the radio or television or lock the door to keep him out of the bar. It was a well-choreographed dance that they were forced to rehearse not infrequently. Her demands that he accompany her, and his objections and excuses became as second-nature as “good morning” or “when’s dinner” or “yes, yes, I love you too. Now leave me alone.”

So, he was already sullen when they finally reached the store with the game tied 2-2, and in no mood to spend any money on more stuff that they did not need.

“What do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?,” she said more than asked.

“Look at how thin the legs are!” he groused. “The whole thing looks like it collapse under the weight of a roast.”

She waved off his objection. “Oh, listen to the engineer! Since when did you shift your focus from roads to tables? It’s very well made. That’s the modern style.”

“And what’s with those chairs? Those will never last. Look at those legs! And that material! Who upholsters like that? That fabric will rip in no time,” he pronounced. “And then what?”

“They’re very comfortable. Why don’t you try sitting in one?”

“It doesn’t match anything else in the house. It will look weird.”

“The rest of the house will catch up.”

End of discussion. The dining room set was purchased. He made it home in time to watch Livorno lose on penalty kicks, and to take a nap.

Much to his chagrin, he could not have been more wrong. The set was indeed built well. It outlasted several prized easy chairs, a sofa, and a couple of mattresses. What’s more, her adoration of it only seemed to grow with the years, fueled—so he believed—by his recalcitrance over the purchase. She kept the tabletop polished with a blinding sheen, and was diligent in ridding the chairs’ upholstery and legs of any unacceptable stains or marks. Regardless of season, there was always a vase of fresh flowers placed carefully on a tray in the dead center of the table and woe be it whoever has the misfortune to knock water from it onto the table. The knowledge of an unenviable fate was sufficient to ensure that no one ever did.

She took better care of the set than she did of him or, for that matter, herself. Over the years, he learned to hate that thing—it came to personify everything he resented about his marriage–and though he resolved to spend only as much time as necessary sitting there, he forgot why.

When she died, he kept the table as she had last set it for several years and dutifully replaced the flowers every week. He told no one, but thought it a more fitting memorial than traipsing off to the cemetery where he would find himself standing uncomfortably, unsure of what to do, how to act or feel. The truth was, he felt nothing there. He hated the place and could not locate her spirit amidst the clamor of so many others, if in fact it was there at all. Which he doubted. No, he knew where her spirit resided, and he made sure to keep the table top polished and the chairs free of marks and the flowers fresh.

For the longest time he couldn’t bring himself to eat at the table. It didn’t seem right doing so without an invitation. Besides, it seemed so, well, solitary, dining there without her. Funny to realize how little the rest of the apartment was infused with her persona, despite their 30 years in the place and the countless hours she spent cleaning and decorating and arranging everything within an inch of its life. So, he took his meals at the latest easy chair in front of the television—something she would never suffer.

After a while, the table beckoned him back. He couldn’t remember exactly when and, really, it didn’t matter. But, one evening as was taking a cup coffee during a Palermo-Cagliari match, and without any thought, he got up turned off the t.v., and returned to his seat at the head of the table. There he had his cup of coffee and read the newspaper and realized how much he missed her.

Years later, this is how people would remember him: sitting at the table, eating or drinking, reading or writing, thinking or visiting with friends or family. Regardless of the activity, he was careful to clean up completely at the end of the day before he headed off to bed, the table left pristine and ready for another day of occupation. The living room fell into disuse.

It was at the table that he composed his now-famous Treatise, the original draft of which was found neatly compiled and placed in the credenza–undoubtedly where he placed it before polishing the table for a last time.

The dining room set has been preserved and is now on permanent exhibition in the regional museum.

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