The bright warm light of the late-afternoon winter sun shone brightly into the living room as my fourteen-year-old son, Brandon, walked in through the front door. He quickly stopped in his tracks and attempted to assess the situation presented before him. I was sitting on my haunches on the hardwood floor, hands sheathed in clear, disposable vinyl gloves, with one of them stuffed into a double layer of plastic grocery bags as if I was ready to pick up a steaming pile of dog shit. In front of me was a small gamer's chair, the kind with no arms or legs and is slightly curved, and sits directly on the floor. It was folded over so the secret pocket I had discovered on the bottom was facing up. A few shiny gold wrappers lay in a pile next to me on the floor.
Brandon remained fixed in his spot in front of the door, his confusion mounting.
"You don't want to know," I said shaking my head. I wished I hadn't known either.
It was a chair I had found earlier at a thrift store after having visited nine stores looking for what I called a "banana chair," the kind that were popular when I was a kid in the '80s. Apparently they stayed in the '80s because all I could find was that one chair, and as I stated above, it was of the gamer variety with speakers and knobs and functions that would be useless to me. Since it was the only one I could find within a 20-mile radius, I decided I'd give it a cursory cleaning, cover it with a throw and call it good.
After it was home and sitting on the floor of the living room, I began to look over my purchase, which is when I discovered the somewhat-hidden zippered pocket on the bottom. I flipped the chair over for easier access, unzipped the pocket, quickly peeked inside and noticed a bunch of garbage that looked like candy wrappers. In the moments that would follow I would make the worst decision of my entire adult life, one I would regret immediately, one that still makes me retch a little when the memory surfaces. I instinctively reached in and grabbed a handful of the garbage (with my bare hand, no less), and as soon as I pulled it out some horrified sound escaped my mouth and I threw it all onto the floor. I had pulled out a handful of empty condom wrappers.
"GAAAHHHHH!!" I exclaimed as the reality of what I had just done quickly settled in. My seventeen-year-old daughter, Amanda, was sitting on the couch nearby. "Jesus Christ it wasn't just garbage, they're condom wrappers. Kill me now," I pleaded with her.
Had I not wanted that kind of a chair for a very specific reason, and had it not been the only one of its kind that I could find in all of creation, I would have thrown it into the dumpster immediately. I ran into the kitchen, put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves, and went back to the chair. I had to clean it up. All of it. I didn't want to, but I had to, so I braced myself. This time, with gloved hands, I gently grasped the opening of the pocket and took a better look inside to see what I was really up against, begging every god that ever existed that I wouldn't find what I knew would be in there.
I saw more wrappers, all of them empty. Then I looked just a tiny bit further and saw it laying in there like a flat, flaccid, fleshy, rubbery shell of a penis. It was a used condom. God fucking dammit, I thought to myself. God dammit god dammit god dammit. Back to the kitchen I went and returned with three plastic grocery bags. I would've preferred a hazmat suit, but this had to do. I spread one of the bags open and laid it on the floor. The empty wrappers I so foolishly pulled out a few minutes ago would be thrown into it. The other two bags were put together, one inside the other, and placed over my right hand. My plan was to reach inside that nasty science experiment-of-a-pocket and scoop it all out, in one fell swoop, without looking, without examining, without throwing up. As I sat, bags on hand, trying to convince myself that I hadn't already contracted hepatitis, my son walked through the door.
"You don't want to know," I said and finally mustered up the courage to just do it already. I took a deep breath and held it, reached into the pocket without looking, and swept my hand along the entire inside of the pocket, hoping with all hope I'd get it in one try. I brought out my hand, quickly folded the plastic bags over the contents that once belonged to someone who somehow managed to continually get lucky as a fucking gamer, and shoved it all into the bag I had laying on the floor, glove and all. With my left hand I scooped up the empty wrappers and threw them in as well, again followed by the glove. With a fresh pair of gloves I grabbed the cleaning spray, the one with bleach, and a roll of paper towels. I zipped up the pocket, vowing to never touch it again, sprayed the entire seat with the bleach solution and wiped down every nook and cranny I could find, then I sprayed the floor and cleaned that up too.
Once I felt that the chair, my person, and the surrounding floor had been adequately disinfected, I placed what I soon referred to as The Condom Chair in the corner of my meditation room. A lovely plum throw was placed over it and there it sat, a little vinyl whore all cleaned up and ready for redemption.
Exactly one week later I needed to waste a few minutes on my way to work so I decided to head into to Wal Mart to pick up a container of wiper fluid for my car. As if by divine miracle (more like divine cruelty to be honest), I took a route to the back of the store that I wouldn't have normally taken, and I came upon a display of about twenty boxes of the exact chair I had searched for the week before.
Never had a chair been so quickly disposed of as was The Condom Chair as soon as I arrived home with its brand new replacement. This one sat in the same corner, its chastity intact, and would beautifully suffice as the cradle of repose in which I would read, write, and relax in my sacred room.
To this day I try to understand why the Universe found it necessary to play such a cruel joke on me. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere, like that I need to slow down and think before reaching my hand into a pile of someone else's DNA. Maybe I took one for the collective I-need-a-banana-chair team, and my disgusting experience caused the Universe to put an APB out to every Wal Mart in the area to put out every damn banana chair they ever had because someone could have died. Or maybe I'm just being a tad over-dramatic.
Here's to relaxation, meditation, and chairs that are not full of semen...