Salome Magazine
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LAce Posted Monday, January 13th, 2003
The Defunct Lamp
Jessica O'Connell

Our most recent argument began over a lamp from Target. One corner of our home has been especially difficult to light for any number of star-crossed reasons. From burnt out bulbs to combusted transformers, it seemed our computer desk was destined to be a gloomy cave.

But this weekend, I was taking a road trip to find the perfect lamp, which would, in turn bring an end to the desk corner headache. And almost immediately I zeroed in on what was indeed the perfect lamp to illuminate the shadows of our computer monitor. Silver and sleek with an adjustable gooseneck–I imagined my husband installing it in its proper place with pride. Even better—it was on clearance for a mere $15! Sold!

Upon arriving home from my seven-hour shopping and driving jaunt, my husband scowled at the lamp. He aimed its metal shade at me and asked if I'd gotten a bulb. "What do you mean?" I said. "Don't we have light bulbs?"

Turns out it took a very special Type B, 40-Watt bulb. As I rooted around on our shelf of miscellaneous and discarded household items, trying to find the mystical bulb, he began taking apart the lamp, swirling its base away from its stem. "It's broken,” he said. “You bought a broken lamp."

At precisely this moment I began to feel my fury and disappointment well up. It seemed clear to me that when I’d brought the lamp into the house, it was regal and functional. But now that my husband had taken the liberty of deconstructing it, pointing out its flaws and disengaging its head from its base—it was broken.

Since I had bought the lamp over an hour away, there was no simple resolution to how or when it should be returned. And it's probably worth mentioning that our computer desk now featured no less than three defunct lamps cluttering its surface.

The tension did not dispel naturally. Each time I walked past the rejected lamp, I felt a pang of anger and helplessness over the entropy now dominating our corner space. The lamp began to remind me of an ugly duckling—one whose egg I had laid, but was forced to abandon.

It was snowing. Although we'd made love that morning, my husband now had me furious. I decided to go to the gym. Did he want to join me? Of course not. I set out alone, only to discover two things:

1) My cell phone was out of juice.
2) The roads were much worse than I'd thought.

My rage quickly turned self-destructive. I felt like a teenager again, rebelling against my parents. I wanted my husband to pay for my suffering. To feel the loneliness of being a widower and never meeting his unborn child. I was detached enough to briefly wonder in disbelief how long it had been since I had felt this way. A long time. Maybe eight years? What was it about my husband that had transformed him into my parents? And what had caused me to regress to high school age? And, most importantly, how had the defunct Target lamp become my own rejected gosling?

I thought back to the times I had marched down the stairs as a teenager wearing Doc Martens and fishnet stockings and observed the pained looks on my parents' faces. Eventually I suppose I had come to terms with my parents' perspectives: smoking cigarettes was stupid, selling drugs even worse, and losing one's virginity at 16…well…a little young. But why in God's name had my husband suddenly joined their team of disapproval and "knowing better"?

He called my duckling "Target lamp" ugly, and questioned my judgment. My fancy-free memory of finding a suitable lamp and placing it in my cart as I tossed my hair to one side was tarnished. I hadn't inspected the lamp closely enough nor had I run it through the 25-point inspection that my husband felt was necessary.

The streets continued to get worse, as I continued to drive and think. How does an argument like this end, and what will it take to illuminate one corner? Can a crappy fifteen dollar lamp really put such strain on a marriage? And how would my anger and hurt dissipate? As a teenager, didn’t I always do something careless in order to punish and simultaneously forgive my parents? What would it take to forgive my husband?

I'm happy to report exactly what it took: He washed four loads of dishes, baked one batch of cupcakes, cleaned under both the bathroom and kitchen sinks, and spent the better part of the afternoon reading my pregnancy books and doing online crib research.

Next weekend we'll return the lamp together and pick out a new one to end our season of darkness in the corner. Perhaps this time I'll come around to his way of discerning appropriate lighting fixtures, and we'll lay a golden egg together.

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  • The Lamp

    Comments [post a comment]

    Posted by jocelyn johnson on Tuesday, January 14th, 2003 at 10:30 AM
    As a recipient of some of those cupcakes, I can verify that making-up is sweet. My adult rebellions tend towards smokes in the car while blarring R.Kelly or maybe old Ani. Luckily these backroad excursions always lead back home.

    Posted by Fawn Pattison on Tuesday, January 21st, 2003 at 1:40 PM
    well, jess, i can see why you fell for that simple yet functional lamp. its sleek gooseneck reminds me of the gynecological inspection lamps with which you must by now be extremely intimately acquainted. my advice to all young couples: STAY AWAY FROM TARGET. i can't tell you the pain that a seductively-priced rear-seat car organizer caused me.

    Posted by willie hoffman [ ] on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2003 at 10:48 AM
    Another alternative would be to recognize the divine significance of broken lamps and sexual frustration occuring in the office by moving the desk to the living room where you have plenty of natural light, paint the office walls red, fill the room with cushions and candles thus turning the darkness into it's full pragmatic realization as the perfect phosphorescence of love making. The defunct lamps could be used as creative paraphenelia, because like defunct lamps, passionate sex overlooks the imperfections while focusing on the perfections of one's mate. With such a room in your house there would be no need to go to the gymn in foul weather.

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