The couple didn’t think of the table between them as they argued, slamming their fists against its surface and digging into it with their nails. That night they would make up with one another, and by morning, they were to forget all about how they felt the night before. But the table would remember the emotions it absorbed and the impacts that shook it down to the base of its legs. It had no one it could confide in, but nearby there was a cup on the floor that could empathize.
For you see, the cup had jumped, not of its own accord, off the table that night, in the midst of passions that were increasingly becoming a regular occurrence. Unlike the furniture around it, the cup couldn’t think back to the smile on the couple’s faces as they picked it out. It couldn’t remember the delicacy on display as each item was given a home, nor could it recall the kind of friction against its surface that resulted from emotions more endearing than anger and frustration. The rest of the home had stories to tell, but the cup had only just entered the day before, bringing with it a gift of coffee that wasn’t quite right. What little remained went even less noticed as it pooled on the kitchen floor around it.
Eventually the puddle reached the mat situated in front of the kitchen sink. It was slightly askew. That in and of itself wasn’t anything new. It was prone to getting kicked around as the woman came in to do the dishes. Usually someone would come in later to straighten it out, but that, too, was becoming more of a rare occurrence. The door just under the sink rested slightly open, having gone as unnoticed as the mat below.
The man and woman that shared the home at the end of the cul-de-sac didn’t think of themselves as unhappy. They were three years into their relationship, long past the point where new relationship energy ran its course. An unlikely encounter convinced them that their union must have been fate, and after falling head over heels in love, they waited the better part of a year before tying the knot. Some said they rushed into things, but both sworn they had waited as long as they could handle.
Now they were reaching the point in their relationship where spending time together was difficult more often than it was easy. With each passing day, they became even more unhappy. Their friends and family had no idea, but even though they lived at home without any children, they shared the space with plenty of inhabitants who knew otherwise.
An army of dust had gradually advanced into nearly every corner of the home, forming thick layers on surfaces that the woman attacked regularly back when she cared whether her husband thought of her as tidy, back when she felt it was the best indicator of whether she was as organized and in-control as she wanted to seem. A year and a half later, she still sought to impress others, but her husband had been stricken from the list.
The bookshelf in the living room felt the burden the hardest. The top layer of dust was understandable, as no one entered the house who was tall enough to notice its presence. But over time, additional layers had formed atop the rows of novels the couple bought before switching to ebooks, the French-English dictionaries from college, the cookbooks filled with meals they would never cook together. The dustiest was a photo album filled with wedding pictures, bright photographs of the blissful days after at the beach, and a few glimpses of the new home. The same pictures had been shared on Facebook, and while the couple enjoyed putting the album together, they never thought of it when they carried the same images everywhere in their pocket.
The sofa wasn’t far from the bookshelf, the couple thinking this placement would encouraging future reading. It occasionally did, but it couldn’t compare to the hours spent watching Netflix, a habit that was fading in its own right. The sofa cushions were starting to sag, but sometimes entire days went by without any human contact changing their contours. Whenever the opportunity arose to put in a few more hours at work, the wife took it. The husband often stopped at the grocery store on the way home from the office, intentionally always forgetting an item just to give himself a reason to stop on the way home again later that week.
Most telling were the circular stains that had appeared on the coffee table mere inches away from coasters that would have blocked them. Its surface had long ceased to be something anyone cared about, the living room itself a place people passed through on their way to live their lives elsewhere. Occasionally it was covered in mail that would rest in place for over a week. Its surface was only cleared when the couple had guests, an occurrence that still took place somewhat regularly. If either person couldn’t avoid the home, the least they could do was avoid entering it alone with the person that, over time, became more of their adversary than their ally.
But on this day, things were different. The husband didn’t stop at the store on the way home. The wife didn’t go to happy hour with the rest of the office. They both showed up at their front door at the same time. It watched as they awkwardly greeted one another, then, even more awkwardly, reached for its handle at the same time. It was happy to open up for them, but this feeling tapered slightly when the husband took too long to release the handle once inside, as though he were contemplating making a last ditch escape to pick up that thing he forgot at that place. It would have been the same thing he always forgot whenever he wanted out of the house.
The wife made eye contact with him, realizing that the passion she felt the night before had, in fact, fled by morning. She had to struggle to open up the fridge, for it didn’t want her to reach inside, not like this. She was retreating, pulling out far more produce than two people could possibly consume, enough food to occupy her body and mind with chopping for the next half hour. Many of the kitchen utensils were still shiny from lack of use, but there was one knife that had grown spotted and dull. This was the one she turned to now, the one she reached for more often these days.
The kitchen table cringed as the woman dropped her knife and cutting board atop it harder than she expected. The husband typically avoided his wife when she became awkwardly tense this way, but he was already making his way over when she cut in front of him, and it would even more awkward for him to pretend he hadn’t been walking over now. He bent over to pick up the empty coffee cup he had noticed on the floor, but now there were two shapely calves were beside it. Though it hadn’t been long since he felt them against his skin, it had been ages since he had actually seen them, especially this up close. He remembered how many hours he and his wife had spent in her apartment when they first met, him stroking the back of her calves as they bonded over countless episodes of the Daily Show. But now, he was losing them. He was losing her.
The coffee cup found its way to the top of the kitchen table, and when it did, the knife stopped chopping. The kitchen listened as the couple spoke in a tone it, nor its inhabitants, had heard in many long months. There wasn’t a big fight, nor were there even tears, but something changed. The entire house could feel the subtle shift.
The remote on the side table soon rediscovered the warmth of human touch. The sofa formed a grin as it spent more time with the couple than it had in far too long a time. It was happy to watch the sun set through the window, even happier to see the shadow of two hands clasped together under the contented glow of the television.