Timid Man Stares At Table

Marty’s problem was that he was always staring at tables. As a default reflex, he was always looking down at different kinds. Always avoiding eye contact, he figured that if he looked down the argument would be over sooner.

He remembered the dark, polyurethaned wood of the family’s dinner table. As a child and teenager, he often studied the way the wood’s grain broke over the knots like waves around rock. He was avoiding the accusation of home work not-doing. He called it “not-doing” in his head because his parents always said “undoing” when referring to his lack of home work completion. He knew that was the wrong phrase, but he had to make up a clunky one to make it work.

The next table was a cheap, plastic, and flimsy thing from a giant department store. He and Rachel had walked around a bunch of tables they could not afford before buying this plastic one. It was supposed to look like marble on top with metal legs. Both were untrue. Even if they had been true, Marty wasn’t sure it was a good combination. He would stare at the faux-marble top, thinking it looked like advanced cloud formations on a day that was just about to get stormy. Often, the kitchen was also about to get stormy. These arguments were about things he hadn’t done, something not-done. The trash was the issue, or the dishes, or the vacuuming. Sometimes the issue was being too late for dinner because he had spent the afternoon, post-work, staring at the fake wood of a coffee shop table, trying to think of something to write.

Then there was his work desk. Dull, lifeless, gray, and plastic, it served only the utilitarian purpose of holding a computer and a phone. Often, he would stare at the desk while avoiding getting up to carry out some simple task. Or, after a bout of not-doing, he may be reprimanded by a supervisor, to which he would say that he would get his productivity up—all the while examining an old coffee ring slowly fusing with the gray matter of the table.

After the supervisor would leave, another round of not-doing would ensue. Come to think of it, perhaps staring at tables was not his main problem.