The Eames Chair Rant

Creative Nonfiction
Sandra Gail Teichmann


Why he didn’t call me, I asked, suppressing my cough, and why he didn’t answer when I called him. He had, as it were, a cell phone in his pocket wherever he was for god’s sake.

He didn’t have an answer except that he’d been busy at work or at a birthday party for someone or at soccer game or asleep, so I asked him why he didn’t return my calls, to which he said he didn’t know I had called, said I hadn’t left messages until this last one. Well, no, I hadn’t, didn’t think it was necessary since he had that device that tells him who is calling during the ringing and after, to which he said, “Yes, but all the screen said was that an unknown call was coming in.”

Well, maybe so. I do use one of those 10-10-6-something calling formats. Cheaper than a direct dial. Could use my cell phone, and yes, I do have one of those, but really it’s so small, and I don’t think I can hear or talk into it so well; talk, that is, at a normal volume. So those are some of the problems I have talking to my son, mechanical problems all of them I’m sure, which seems most odd in this age of advanced technology. Oh, I know you’re probably thinking that I’m just an old woman past knowing anything and certainly past being of interest. Well, it depends, I’d say, on your perspective. To begin with the question of age, I’ll tell you I’m fifty-seven. And he? He’s twenty-nine. Sort of middle-aged or near it, both of us, seems to me. I’ve got a good twenty years yet to make something of what I’ve got going, and he’s got maybe ten years to get firmly established, which is, of course, not to say that I’m completely satisfied with where I am, or that he has not yet set himself in a direction. I think, though, that time is critical for both of us and is, as much as I hate to admit it, bound up with money, a terrible tension of a diminishing amount of the first, which is necessary for the accumulation of the second. For me it’s critical that I maintain what I have to assure ease and independence unto death, and for Ryan it’s imperative that he begin accumulating a little something and stop living from day to day. To look at this another way, I’d say I seem to have accepted death while he has yet to acknowledge the possibility. So there the two of us are at ages fifty-seven and twenty-nine.

On the question of knowing anything: I’d say I do. I’m a tenured professor. I’m a playwright. I’m a novelist. I’m a poet. I’m an artist. It could be said—has been said—that I know literature, philosophy, color, design, language, good taste, theory, and I know that I know human nature. I also know computer technology, teach graduate and undergraduate courses on-line as well as in the classroom, and no one can say I’m behind the curve in any aspect. I’ve also traveled extensively enough to know enough geography to point out Gijon or Amroth or Iassi or Moncton or Tuxpan or any number of other places on the world map, and I’ve stayed home enough to have grown an exquisite garden: sage, rosemary, iris, gladiolas, wormwood, morning glories, four o’clocks, and daisies.

As to the final question of me being of interest, I’d say I’m vital. I’m healthy, good looking, sexual, spirited, and I’m ever interested in that beyond myself. My last mammogram came back normal, my teeth are white, and my weight is still within the limit of what my height can gracefully carry. To give you a more objective view, a reviewer of one of my recent plays described me as handsome and gracious, my long graying hair loosely drawn up on my head. I enjoy sex with my husband more than once a month, and as for taking a risk, I do that with relish be it for the excitement of winning a stack of chips in roulette, a rubber in bridge, or the satisfaction of seeing one of my plays on the stage even if I have to produce and direct it myself. I have friends, an easy laugh, and I’m the first to laugh at myself, never taking anything too seriously.

So that’s me, all of the above, and I love, love Ryan, baby boy. Love him and want him to have only the best, want him to be happy, and he is. Happy on the telephone, happy in his emails, signing himself boi blue, meaning not sad, but little boy blue, like from the nursery rhymes I read him… little boy blue asleep in the hay… telling me always his hopes and his successes in his architecture career, telling me the latest painting he sold, the colors of it, telling me who was who at his opening in the Chicago Gallery, telling me and telling me: the new loft he was moving into, the view from his ninth floor windows, the market across and just down the street on the weekends. Telling me and asking me too about what Carlos and I are doing, asking, that is, until four weeks ago.

The change began in the middle of summer. Fourth of July weekend it was Carlos and me driving the six-hundred miles to visit Ryan—but because Ryan was having a 4th of July party—stopping short and staying outside of St. Louis in a dumpy small-town Missouri motel. I felt sad, as you might imagine, that we hadn’t been invited to the party. As we ate soggy fried chicken from the grocery store in the motel room sitting on the bed in front of the television, I wanted to be at the party, thought Ryan would have been proud to have had Carlos and me there to mingle with his architect and artist friends, but I didn’t worry, knowing Ryan needed to establish himself and also knowing Carlos and I had only just been to visit Ryan less than two months before. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

So there we were arriving on the 5th and happy—happy we were to see him, me, of course, but Carlos, too, though he is only a stepfather. Carlos enjoys Ryan, looks forward to being with him as much as I do, but this time Carlos was to play in a chess tournament for the weekend, and I was to spend the whole time alone with Ryan.

That first evening Ryan and I had dinner and a pitcher of sangria at a Spanish restaurant in old town before going back to the loft to talk and relax. Just Ryan and me alone in his loft with a lovely view of the city while he talked about his paintings, his work, and then Illivia. Illivia? Who was this? So he told me she was really nice to him, had even cleaned his oven. Cleaned his oven?

I had to agree that cleaning his oven was nice and that maybe we could invite her to join us for brunch or something the next day. Well, he did invite her for breakfast, and there she was for the rest of the weekend, day and night, in and out of the loft, stuck to us like a price tag, but I sort of liked her, laughed with her, loved her name. She was tall and athletic, full of energy and earnest. I enjoyed the weekend, enjoyed Illivia, that is, until she started telling me what was what about an Eames chair Carlos and I were considering ordering for Ryan.

Sunday evening it was, and I was trying to discuss the chair with Ryan, the value of it with respect to its quality and its reputation as well as the value such an expensive piece would have for Ryan. I mean, I wanted to know if this chair would really be something that would fit into Ryan’s rather transient life style: East Coast five years, LA two years, Vail three years, San Antonio one year, and then St. Louis. In the middle of this, Illivia got involved, took over, informing me that the Eames chair was expensive because of the fine craftsmanship required for such a piece. Can you imagine? This very young woman, maybe twenty-one, telling me why and how this Eames chair could demand such a price? Unheard of, but I didn’t say a thing, nothing, and the next day Carlos and I left before dawn, left Illivia and Ryan, the two of them, wrapped around each other asleep on the futon in front of the television. During the six-hundred mile drive home, I called from my cell phone to place the order for the Eames chair, called not because I had been convinced by Illivia that the craftsmanship was excellent, but because I knew Ryan wanted the chair, coveted it, and if he did, indeed, I thought, he should have it, have anything he really wanted.

When we got home that evening a message was waiting: Ryan wanting to know why we had left before breakfast, left without kissing him good-bye, wanting to know if it were because of Illivia. I called back, and I told Ryan that Carlos and I had had a long way to drive and I had a number of things with my new play to attend to.

Five months later the Eames chair was delivered.

Ryan said it was beautiful, so beautiful that he was afraid of it. I asked him if Illivia were sitting in it. He didn’t answer my question but did tell me he was going to ask Illivia to move in with him, told me he was going to move to a bigger loft, buy this time rather than rent since Illivia would be helping out with the payments. I listened, asked questions about the different lofts he looked at, considered the possibilities over the phone with him, and every time he looked at a new property he would call to discuss it with me, and never forgot to also ask me what Carlos and I were doing. Weeks, months, seemed like years, passed before he called again, called with a turn-of-the-century red brick firehouse in mind. A delightful possibility and location, but expensive considering the renovation necessary. I was sick with fever and bronchitis and not so enthusiastic as usual, but I was rather interested. Carlos and I afterwards even considered making a financial contribution, but the more I thought about the situation Ryan seemed headed for, the more worried I became. The fire station, to be lived in, would need considerable time and money and a live-in girlfriend to share in meeting the monthly mortgage payments. Fine maybe, but the more I thought about the unrealistic aspects and about the money Carlos and I had given Ryan in the past, the thousands and thousands of dollars—money that had always fizzled away like bubbly water—the higher my fever got and the more I coughed and the more I worried about Ryan entering into a business deal that relied largely on the financial contribution he expected from an unknown, i.e., Illivia and her monthly payment.

The question became: who was Illivia, and just how reliable would this monthly payment be? So I called Ryan to ask if he thought it a good idea, all of this, with Illivia—beautiful as her name was—not being exactly known for keeping a job. He told me, as if I were an idiot, “Well, mother, I’ve only known her for six months, so what are you saying?”

Exactly. What was I saying? Six months, and she’s just now got a job of training waitresses at a high-end chain just opening in St. Louis. Other jobs she didn’t keep, and then she couldn’t find anything else it seems. I’m not saying she got fired. She just hadn’t been keeping a job, and her parents had been paying the rent for her downtown apartment.

“Well, you don’t know,” he said, but I did know. I knew all too well that she’d not yet graduated with a B.A. Ryan had told me she needed yet just one course, and had also told me Illivia had no real skills, but he said, “It’s all right because she’s young and just like me when I was that age.” It was then that I told him Illivia was unreliable, and I started coughing and had to hang up. And it’s since then that he never calls and will seldom answer my phone calls, and it’s since then I can’t seem to get rid of this cough, though I tell Ryan when I do get through to him that what I said was not a rejection of Illivia, tell him I like Illivia and so does Carlos. Carlos thinks she has a good eye for photography. I think she’s fun to be around, wouldn’t mind hanging out with her for maybe another weekend. So all this isn’t about rejecting Illivia; rather it’s that I have serious concern about Ryan’s financial obligations and the possibility of his losing everything including the Eames chair.

And then it was that he reminded me that he has nothing but debt, thousands and thousand of dollars of debt, and I wanted to agree with him, but I couldn’t seem to stop coughing.

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I have been widely published and have authored the following books: Slow Mud, Woman of the Plains, and Killing Daddy, all available from Amazon.com. I am also a playwright and have had a number of my plays staged. E-mail: STeich0613[at]aol.com.