The Yes Chair

The Sirens' Circle

We had a chair when we were kids. A red chair. It was fabled to have belonged to the children of the family for many generations. Its wood was dense with coats of paint textured by smoothed-over crevices of dings and nicks and dents by children throwing it, carving their marks or picking at the grain while scolded or laughing or wondering. I came across this chair in the back of a room that was full of boxes and ironing boards and wicker things that either lost or never found their place in the broader home. It had skipped a generation hidden in this room. But it wasn’t missed as it waited here, in the 1970’s—suspended in the era of pastel beanbag chairs. When I picked it up its joints loosened and shook-off the dust of an eon. I felt an instant nostalgia—a distant pain of forgotten-by-design moments in a life. Those moments just before the markers of our memories are set by classroom posters and lunchbox sitcom characters. A time before concern when there are more wonderings than questions. I remembered sitting in that chair and scraping the red paint of its arms beneath my fingernails. Then I remembered my older sister’s friends. Their long straight hair strategically set by plastic barrettes in their bell-bottomed, hip-hugging striped pants. They seemed like exotic sirens on a shore to me even then. Alluring. Dangerous. Vexing. Though no more than ten years old. The game. My uncertain nostalgia swept away by the memory of the game we used to play in that chair. These girls, these muses to a boy without latency would circle me. As they danced around the chair they would lean their lips into my ears and ask me questions. The scent of bubblegum breath and ‘no-more-tears’ shampoo with every question that I was instructed to answer with one word and one word only. “Yes”. If the sitter cracked and answered “No” to any question, they lost. This meant that someone else would garner all their attention. Their breath, their hair, their dance made it possible for me to ignore the questions—despite the truth—and say only , “Yes”. It was easy to win because I was willing to lose my self. To let it go. I didn’t know it but in that little red chair at seven years old I was sitting right next to what Sufi monks spend their lives seeking. The “I”.



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