by Kevin Burton
The least attractive piece of furniture I own might be the most precious.
It’s a night stand by my bed that didn’t begin its furniture life as a night stand.
For the back story we go way back to my time at the Ohio State School for the Blind.
On one of those carefree days in the late spring I was making my semi-clueless rounds and found myself on the loading dock. The loading dock was always cluttered, I suppose with things on their way in and things on their way out.
I saw a wooden piece of, something, and scooped it up and carried it off without half thinking about it. Not sure why I felt free to just claim it. The long arm of the law may yet hold me to account, but it would have to be a very long arm indeed.
This thing looked to be a stray discarded item, but I didn’t, couldn’t, know that.
I got it all the way to my parents’ house in Yellow Springs. Upon further inspection it appeared to be a desk drawer out of a teacher’s desk.
I just measured it, which I had never done before. It’s 26 inches tall, with what used to be the front of it when it was a desk piece, now serving as the top. It’s 14 inches wide, about 12 inches deep.
I don’t remember this specifically but my father must have asked me what I planned to do with it. If he did ask I’m sure I bluffed up something vaguely plausible. But I had no answer really.
I stored stuff in it. Highly valuable adolescent kid stuff. I remember my first cat Queeny taking up residence in it.
I don’t remember now how much I carted it around the country, to Washington State, Alaska, Iowa.
But when a former girlfriend named Melody rented a small U-Haul and helped me bring things from Ohio to Kansas, I chose this desk drawer as one of the items claiming valuable space.
And now it’s a night stand. It holds my coffee during Bible study in the morning, water and other beverages at night. It used to hold talking books, before I started getting books electronically on BARD.
It might be the first thing tossed out by someone going through my belongings after I die. It doesn’t look like much.
I explained to Melody why I had it and she in exasperation said “Can you at least cover it up?” So she got me a little dark green cloth to sit on top of it.
I of course, think of the cloth as protecting it, not covering it.
What color is this night stand? Glad you asked. If you take that green cloth off, I am very confident the top of it used to be pink. Now it is a glorious, hideous un-color that you could never replicate.
The gruesome pink color of Pepto Bismol that everybody makes fun of looks fantastic compared to this.
Some of the paint has been chipped away and the dark wood shows through. Even better, there are off-pink paint streaks frozen forever in dripping motion down two sides of it.
I suppose I seem like that night stand to the world at large. Here’s this blind guy, or sort of blind because he can see a little, just not enough. Not enough to be whole like us, the sighted, the normal.
Here’s a discard, one to be tossed aside, excluded.
I don’t dwell on this in conversations, but I know some of my fellow blind school alums have been made to feel that way. Maybe all of them have.
But my humble teacher’s desk-turned night stand is sturdy enough and serves a function. Two functions really. It holds my drinks and it centers me.
It reminds me who I am, where I come from and the people I represent. It shows me hard knocks and time take their toll, but don’t define you or take away your value.
It makes me proud of my scars and what I did to earn them.
And if somebody at the school comes after me for restitution, I will gladly pay the forty years of rent for an ugly wooden part that has become a true and beautiful treasure.