Carl’s Whine Rack or Cellphone Snake Game Redux

Carl sat on a park bench and played the snake game on his cell phone. He tried to beat the high score on his current level before he allowed himself to try the next level of difficulty. He was waiting in the park while she shopped at a nearby mall.

Liz and Carl were, mere minutes ago, on the way to a home fashion store. In Carl’s mind it was a furniture store. Liz decided that today was the Saturday when they would buy the side table that would finally bring the living room together. Carl thought a large wine rack would serve a more practical function than the lamp table or maybe a sofa table where he could vision a nice large vase. He envisioned it would hold floral arrangements. Liz really liked flowers. Maybe he could convince Liz to fill it with glass beads and silk flowers instead. There had been significant advancements with fake flowers that continues to this day.

Carl said this about the wine rack: “ Since the last dinner party, we accumulated six wine bottles. I wouldn’t mind getting a half decent wine rack to show Frank and Claire that I have yet to open the Cabernet Sauvignon they brought last time and also as a reminder to your girlfriends’ husbands that they shouldn’t bring wine if all they drink is my beer!”

Liz replied, “Carl, I don’t want a big wine rack. We can get a small one to put in the kitchen.

Carl said, “ No one’s is going to drink that wine. I pledge to you that I’m not opening any of those.”

“I’ll cook with them. I’ll use them eventually. You’ll see.” Liz said with a smile.

Carl lost another one but the discourse was not solely about wine. If it was just about wine, Carl would have said that Liz’s friends had a habit of bringing Blushes. or fruit blended wines instead of an interesting red wine. Something with dark flavors. inherent in the wine itself and not the Kool-Aid her friends bring over and then never drink. Maybe Liz with Carl that night, would crack open an inexpensive Chilean and toast their love.

They didn’t drink wine last night. Liz had a conversation with Carl about their understanding. Liz’s friends were all married. It’s been her understanding that within two years of Carl moving in with her that they would make the serious legal commitment. Carl agreed with Liz. He wanted to be her husband. He didn’t know this, but Liz’s girlfriends all agreed, that he was husband material. Liz and her friends are all career driven and had succeeded in various meaningful private and public sector jobs that their university degrees gave them. It was their show.

Carl moved into Liz’s condo with his clothes and three boxes of books and CDs. After two months Carl had moved most of the books to his Mother’s with the CD jewel cases. The compact discs were placed a storage binder. Liz did not like the idea of 20 Frank Zappa CDs on display for a friend to see in between her flavours of the month and various selections from a certain Québécois chanteuse. Carl would only hear the question, “What’s the ugliest part of your body?” in his headphones.

Carl knew what he was getting himself into. His CDs were hidden, his rock tour t-shirts ended up in the rag pile. There must be a fair exchange for this merchandise. Liz loved him, that much he knew. Carl’s problem was that he believed too much in romantic notions. He desired intense love all the time. Needy. He was very needy. Hugs and kisses and spooning filled this. Liz possessed the skills to identify his need and pleased him when she felt it was due.

Carl did not have the foresight concerning what it takes to be with a woman like Liz. It involved more than love and sex. Sure they are important and crucial but the tough business of having a home and a living with a domestic partner is not always lovey-dovey. It’s rather harsh for a young boy at heart like Carl to understand this at his age.

The condo was nice. Tidy and neat. Liz was neat for Carl.

He used to call Liz his E-Liz, his little electric lizard. Her mother calls her Elizabeth. Her. friends call her Liz or Eliz but never Lizzie.

She was probably too good for Carl. If it turned out that he was not present in her life, Liz would have settled for some older man. Maybe a maximum of 10 years older . He would make her his main focus. The old guy would have his money troubles behind him and his vigor removed after years of bachelorhood. But trust Liz’s friends- they knew this Carl guy who was cute and he was polite and was employed and so they were set up. Their first date was at Frank and Claire’s Stampede Barbeque. Carl remembered bringing beer to that function.

Carl could have had a girl in her twenties. She could’ve dropped by his shit apartment after or between classes or her barista job. She would put up with his crazy music and she’d make him listen to alien music he considered contrived. Then she would drag him to see unfamiliar local acts at a dive bar where you couldn’t get a civilized drink. He would take her out to dinner because she couldn’t cook or order pizza or get supper from that nice Greek place that delivers. The sex would be sporadic but full of passion. Drunken, fumbling, and seemingly disappointing for both involved. She would split early to class or work and sometimes not shower in the morning in her haste to leave. Maybe he wouldn’t call her for days. By Friday, she’d show up with beer for the fridge or some pot for a weekend smoke up.

Carl chose Liz. Liz chose Carl. She was good in the kitchen. Her condo didn’t have cat funk and had clean walls. Carl could barely urinate in the toilet the first time he was over there. Everything had its place: candles, soaps, and towels. Carl hoped his piss stream would be true and direct with no offshoots. He didn’t want to stain the pretty mat so close and cozy against the toilet bowl. Carl kept that precious toilet seat down afterwards.

The evening meal was a very important ritual for them. Carl’s duties were cleanup and grillman. On Sunday barbeques, he was the man. Liz developed entertainment routines to the envy of twenty Heloise readers. Her nature soothed him in the same way little boys get when their grandma makes them a special dinner with all of the things they like. It was rice pudding and cinnamon buns.

It’s not all veneer. Liz was a good one. Too bad the men in her life before Carl were treacherous weirdos, Casanovas, or pathological creeps. Carl was nice for Liz because he would do what was expected without much prompting or rather he hadn’t done any irrational selfish things like the others. He would call her every day, email every other day and Friday night was implied. He gave her gifts just because and listened well but was not a good fighter. Frankly he avoided them. They are necessary for growth and getting past conflicts. That’s their function and they are required for two lovers to grow closer.

How much closer did Carl have to be? He was in the midst of Liz’s world. The condo she was going to sell. Carl was saving large portions of his salary to make an eventual down payment. They dreamed of a place somewhere out in the country. They could stand the commute. They deserved it. Perhaps later they may have talked about children.

She was right. Liz deserved all she wanted. Carl lived with her at her condo. The house in the country was going to be theirs. Not just Liz’s. So geez, why couldn’t Carl just get the wine rack. Carl knew he couldn’t have the Zappa CDs out of the closet. Did it matter? The condo was cozy and cozier still was their shared bed at night.

”Couldn’t we just do this? I know exactly the kind of rack I want…” Carl pouted.

Liz parked. Carl liked it when she drove. Was it the strained look she gave him that was the trigger? Her eyes gave a look “Can’t you behave. You’re out in public.” Maybe not. Carl was stuck in his baby boy mood.

They walked to the store. Carl said, ”I have to go to the bathroom.”

Liz replied, “Really? Well hurry up and go to the coffee shop next-door.”

Carl walked into the coffee shop. Looked at the chalkboard menu. Identified where the bathrooms were. Dodged the customers. He pissed then left and walked down the street away from Liz. She was inside the home fashion store and likely had her credit card poised and ready for use.

Carl walked two blocks and saw the park and sat down at a bench and realized he had his cell phone with him. This is the best you could do Carl? You could have run to a bar and got drunk. Or ran to your Mother’s. She wouldn’t be much help though. Your best escape is to a park bench. How much time would pass until she would phone you, Carl? Might as well turn the phone on and while you’re at it, play that snake game. It’s fun. It reminds him of an old computer game but it’s on the phone. What transparency, man. Using the phone for a purpose it wasn’t designed for. It calmed him.

Is it a matter of importance? Why not a wine rack? Carl doesn’t like wine that much. It’s basically a non-issue. Carl is half fuming, sitting on a park bench. Maybe in an alternate future Carl is sitting on the couch across from a packed wine rack filled with Baby Cham and inexpensive wines he would never drink. He’s wearing a faded rock T-shirt in his boxers probably watching sports on TV in a dust bunny and cat hair stinking apartment. Liz would be with her ancient husband watching crime dramas before going to bed at a civilized 11 o’clock.

Carl stood up and turned off his phone.

Liz bought the table. She quite liked its dark brown finish.

Where is Carl? She looked down the street as the store clerk was putting the table in her trunk. She had her keys in one hand and her cell phone in the other. She was entering her car when Carl appeared at the passenger side window.

Did Liz let Carl have it? You could speculate. Not today.

That evening, the table found its place right next to the sofa. Carl assembled it in twenty minutes. The hex key he used to build it was later placed in their toolbox. The cardboard box was cut into into pieces and ready to be recycled.

Carl was lying in bed with Liz. It was soothing and quiet. It’s not sleep of course and not sex. On their stove, on a low heat was Coq Au Vin that they would eat soon for supper.

Craig Robert Moser 2002

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