Ed is Orb
The truth about mattresses? Generally speaking, the best times we have on them have more to do with our company than anything else. I’m in the business of selling furniture, not sex and so this is what I tell customers. Your spine should look the same lying down as it does standing up. Most mattresses don’t provide enough support to maximize spinal structure without sacrificing comfort.
A perfect mattress supports your backbone equally at each vertebrae allowing for complete relaxation while maintaining shape. The perfect mattress? In the store we simply call her The Lady. Her full name is the Ultra Foam Stabilizer. Topped off with three solid inches of body melting memory foam she is fantasy realized. Priced at 2 grand, The Lady costs more than most customers are willing to pay. The majority looks at her tag and refuses to even sit down. They protect themselves from ever experiencing such unrivaled and unattainable comfort. So until Ed arrived, The Lady was left alone.
For the first few days Ed slept in our store, I thought perhaps he was a stalker or serial killer, only I knew neither would waste their time on me. I was too easy a target to matter.
I named him Ed in his sleep.
He was a handsome older man, his skin mahogany, his face thin and angular, hair shock white. The faint scent of lavender lingered in the air after he walked through. The first time he came in, he was bleary eyed, exhausted and walking with a syncopated stumble, repeatedly saving himself from tumbling onto the floor. He bee-lined for the Lady. In my six months at the Furniture Palace, I had never seen such purpose. Ed sunk into her. Even through his dreary haze and empty, half-moon eyes he knew what he wanted.
“Hey Miss,” he called out to me, “I’m going to take a nap. Turn down the tunes, will you. I want to take this baby for a test-drive.”
He never said whether or not he would buy her, which interested me because I work on commission. As a salesperson, I knew better than to push. Pushing usually causes a customer to say no, when if left on their own they might say yes. If Ed bought The Lady, I would earn half my rent in a single day. Once Ed became a regular, I stopped caring so much about material concerns. As far as I know, he was the only regular we’d ever had at the Furniture Palace. I was like the waitress in the movies who brought ‘the usual’ to the man who frequents her booth. Instead of bringing Ed coffee with sugar, hold the cream, I killed the music when he walked in to nap. Over time the idea of him lying on someone else’s mattress produced a hard pulling feeling inside of my chest. I couldn’t call it adultery, but it was certainly betrayal.
Technically I shouldn’t let Ed sleep in the store, but couldn’t convince myself to ask him to leave. I wouldn’t have allowed anyone else to nap daily in our store, but it’s equally true that no one else would have tried. This is what made Ed so special. He tried. And he offered no explanation. It was as if there was something between him and The Lady and it could not be interrupted. I didn’t enable him. I just didn’t stop him.
When there were no customers, I spent my time pacing the store, adjusting chairs and couches and beds and desks into straight lines. 20 laps around the showroom was a mile. I probably walked four or five in a day, stealing fudge from the customer courtesy plate when I walked past. I eat until my tongue burns from the sugar, and even then cannot stop.
It is my opinion that the job of the shopper is harder than the job of the salesperson. I know the pitch. Our Polyurethane Advanced Foam is better than our Deluxe Foam Top. This is true now and will always be true. A cheap mattress will last you four or five years. A quality mattress will last twenty.
From my observations the job of the shopper is to decide if he/she is worth the purchase. The shopper or if it’s a couple, the shoppers, must measure and judge and place themselves along the gradation of mattresses. They decide their own value. When a couple disagrees, it’s devastating. Their inequality is exposed. An Advanced Polyurethane might discover she’d been dating an Air Mattress all along. I’m no relationship doctor, but even I know, it all comes down to softness and support.
I am very talented at selling furniture. We don’t get too many customers, maybe only fifteen in a whole day, and some might be repeats from the day before, returning after shopping around at our competitors. On average, over one third of the customers that I talk to buy something. The trick is to visualize a piece of furniture as a force of change in someone’s life. First, when a customer comes in, I ask them what they are looking for. Then, while they are looking, I chat with them about their work. Later, I comment on a piece of furniture that caught their eye. Usually it isn’t something they were looking for. People usually look for something they think they should have, but end up buying something that represents the life they wish they had. I try to sell furniture as the bridge that will take them from their working life into their dream life.
On the third day Ed came in, I sold a shiny red Dante armchair to a pig-nosed sports coach looking for a wooden file cabinet. I had caught him eyeing the chair from all different corners of the room. “Go ahead, try it,” I said. “It won’t bite.” The man sat down and put his hands over the wooden ends of each arm. He rested his fingers between the grooves on each claw. He was sitting very straight. As he sat on the chair, I saw him survey the store, taking in the lamps, the Apex Transitional, the Prairie Dog, the Flaming Bush. Everything that lay before him, he counted and appraised.
I brought the plate of fudge to him. “May I interest Your Majesty in a bite of chocolate?” I said. The man giggled and took four.
He paced the store for fifteen minutes, and then bought his throne. I gave him a whole plate of fudge to take home. “You’re worth it,” I told him as he left. Ed sat up in the bed when I said this. Without saying goodbye, he walked out the door.
The next day, I waited until Ed stirred in his sleep, and picked up the plate of chocolate. I took off my shoes and walked towards him. The Lady is designed to insulate you from surrounding distractions. In fact, you can lay down next to someone, roll over, scratch your foot, get up, go to the bathroom, lay back down and jack off and the person next to you won’t feel a thing. The Lady will not budge.
I stood over Ed. His pants were hiked up at the ankles exposing black dress socks that must’ve gone all the way up his skinny calves. Ed is the kind of man whose body defies definition. He is thick on the top and skinny on the bottom, a mismatch. When he woke up, it was with alarm as if the whole building were on fire.
We looked at each other for a long time. The whites of his eyes were actually yellow, as if they had been stained with age. His pupils were so dark they were black and his left was larger than his right. While we stared at each other I had the distinct feeling that as long as we didn’t break our gaze, we were both naked. I am 23 and have not been naked in front of another human being since the age of thirteen.
“Would you like some fudge?” I asked, finally. “There’s hazelnut and dark chocolate. You don’t have to pick. You can have them both.”
“I’m lactose intolerant,” Ed replied.
“Dark then?” Our fingers brushed when he took it from my hand, and I could feel our energies crackle. “Did you sleep alright?”
Ed looked away as if embarrassed by the intimacy of my question.
“How was the mattress?” I tried again, shifting as best as I could back into store decorum.
“Not bad,” Ed replied as if we hadn’t had this conversation many times before. “What are the measurements on the queen?”
“60 by 80 inches,” I replied, looking at the warped thickness of his fingernails. “But it’s a good idea to allow some room for overhang.”
“You’re like a walking almanac,” Ed said, kneading his fingers into his scalp. “You know everything there is to know.”
“It’s my job.” As I walked away, I could feel his eyes on me, taking in the weight of my ass. I tried to sway, to make it move for him. No one had ever stared at me with such intensity.
“Did you know,” I said, turning around, “that the weight of a mattress is directly proportional to how long it will last?”
“No,” Ed said, “I did not.”
Weighing in at 243 lbs, I had the urge to tell him that I would last a very long time.
“See you tomorrow,” I said when he left the store.
“Goodbye Sugar,” Ed said.
“Goodbye Sugar,” I repeated to myself after he walked out. The shape of Ed’s body was still imprinted on the mattress. Before the memory foam on the mattress rose back into a flat plain of white, I ran my fingers along the symmetrical moth wings left by his butt, the delicate trapezoidal plateau of his arched back.
The night after I offered Ed the fudge, I saw a news program all about a new kind of mattress made with magnets. It wasn’t actually news because at the end of the program, a 1-800 number scrolled across the bottom of the screen and a woman named Mona tried to sell them. Even so, the information in the program revealed a whole side of mattresses I had never known existed. According to Mona her magnetic mattress pads created a mystic subfield of untapped energy. During your sleep this energy would open the closed windows inside you and free your caged Eagle. From the diagrams on the program, I could see that the magnetic subfield worked almost like a snake, entering you through your mouth and then working it’s way down your spine, taking field trips out to your fingertips and back until it reached your pelvic area.
“The pelvis is the portal to the new you,” Mona cooed. “Inside of each of our pelvises is an energy vortex.” This was represented on the human body diagram by a glowing red orb, which Mona tapped three times with her middle finger. “Only by accessing our energy vortex can you transcend your humanity and reach for your other. Embrace the animal within. Access your primal power.”
Mona turned and looked right through the TV and into my eyes, into my very own pelvic orb. “Transform yourself! Learn never to say never again!” She preached. Oh the possibilities! The unlived life! Love reborn! Just watching Mona and the program I could feel the orbiting energy vortex inside of my own pelvis. It was pulsing and warm and it wanted nothing more than for me to reach out and touch it. What would I be capable of, I wondered, with this power released? I am a large woman. How vast would I be if I came unhinged?
The next day, I walked the store all morning waiting for Ed and decided to make my own Self-Actualizing Magnetic Mattress. Since I sleep on an old futon, a bottom feeder in the mattress hierarchy, it didn’t make sense for me to test it out myself. Besides, to be scientific, the magnets needed to work their magic on someone who was unaware, someone I could observe, someone like Ed.
That night I took all the magnets off my refrigerator and shoved them in my bag. Most of them were rectangular advertisements that came with take-out. I drew a series of diagrams and finally decided that a figure eight layout would maximize the subfield and allow for deep penetration. The next day I got to work early and placed the magnets between the mattress and box spring. With the few magnetic letters I had I spelled the words ED IS ORB at the very center of the figure eight.
I could barely look at Ed when he arrived. I simply waved and watched from a green armchair as he walked to the back of the store and into my subfield. His eyes were red and his cheeks sagged. I don’t know what he did that made him so tired all of the time. No sleep was ever enough for him, but maybe today, it would be different.
I watched him as he slept. His stomach rose and fell and a peace fell over him. His shoulders relaxed and his jaw dropped open. He slept for an hour and a half. It wasn’t until he woke up that I could see the difference.
Rather than waking up bewildered, he seemed to carry the release sleep afforded into his waking life. It appeared as if all of his face muscles had let go. I know that can’t happen, because our muscles work in pairs, when one is loose, the other is tight, and vice versa, but Ed seemed to have achieved this, breaking a long cycle of clenching. He looked as if he’d happened across some great and comforting knowledge. Serenity exuded from his being. I wanted to climb a mountain and find him long-haired and meditating and sit at his feet. “Be my guru.” I breathed. I wanted to dive into him until I too could walk in perfect equilibrium.
“Did you dream?” I asked Ed.
“No.” Ed said. “I never dream.”
“Maybe you just forget them?”
“I don’t think so.”
I examined the mattress after Ed left to see if I could feel what had changed him. I stood over it and finally touched it. The Lady was warm where Ed had been. I breathed in his lavender smell and ran my fingers over the place where his head rested. I picked up a piece of his curly white perfect hair and held it in the light.
That night I dreamt I was making eye contact with Ed. The longer we looked, the deeper his eyes penetrated and I could feel him searching within me. He was gentle at first but firm. “What are you looking for?” I kept asking Ed, but he wouldn’t answer me. “What is it?” I could see that the inside of my body was made up of rooms. There were halls and bathrooms and staircases and bedrooms and all of them were empty. As Ed walked from room to room, he ran his finger along the wall. I felt heat. A fire burned somewhere in the house of me. My heart beat so hard that even in my sleep I could feel it throbbing in my teeth. “Maybe it isn’t here? Maybe I don’t have it?” I whispered, my voice staticky and robotic, omnipresent as if from loudspeakers in the walls. But Ed kept searching. When I woke up, my body was drenched in sweat. I felt turned on and exhausted.
Like all scientific experiments, mine required multiple tests in order to produce conclusive evidence. Revelation was immanent, but could not be achieved alone. I needed Ed to sleep again, but the next day he did not show. That was a Friday. I was anxious all weekend anticipating his return. On Monday when he didn’t arrive at his usual time I began to worry. By 4:00 when he was still not there, I broke store policy. I lay down on The Lady. “Magnetic deities,” I prayed. “Guide your soldier Ed. Bring him to the store so that we may work our magic upon him.”
And then I was asleep. I don’t know when Ed arrived, or how long he had lain next me. I was simply aware that I was both dreaming and awake at the same time. I could hear his oceanic breathing and feel his body heat pressing red into my skin. It was then that I discovered that Ed and I could speak without using our mouths. He listened to my thoughts.
“Darling,” Ed said to me in my dream. “Sweetness.”
“Me?” I asked.
“Who else?” Ed responded. “There is no one but you.” His voice so deep it was more vibration than sound.
And then it happened. A crossing over. A devastating awareness.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I had never felt this looseness, the expanding vastness, the space that goes on without end. Anything was possible in that moment. I could see futures unrolling before me, a great wheel of opportunities and myself standing bewildered in the center. Would I learn to diet and drink wheatgrass shots until I believed in myself and began a career singing broken-hearted songs to the wrong men in the smokiest dive at the end of the world? Or would I lose control of eating all together until I became 500 lbs and found that I couldn’t get up off the couch? I could see myself, waiting like a cow chewing its cud to slim down enough to shuffle to the bathroom.
Our bodies lay side by side stretched out on The Lady and slept. I had described the way the memory foam lifts to meet each curve of your body to customers, but never before had I felt it. She didn’t meet me halfway. She supported me. The endless mattress stretched out in all directions, the moon low in the sky with a chain hanging down so that it could be turned on and off. I rolled. I dove. I swam. I came up for air and filled my lungs and went back under.
Everything was moving. Not just me, but the ocean and the air and even on the atomic level I could feel the particles bumping up against each other, not wanting to rest, possessed and aimless specks. I cried out. The Furniture Palace is so still, the lines of furniture bleak and rigid, the structure of it all lifeless, and what was I? A thing with legs like all the rest. Amidst the greatness I emerged and in the open space, I was capable of anything. I could see it so clearly. There was no energy vortex. There was no magnetic subfield. There was no Furniture Palace. There was only this.
– Anya Groner currently lives in Oxford, MS where she is pursuing an MFA in fiction at the University of Mississippi and writing her first short story collection. Besides writing, Anya enjoys playing the fiddle, cooking, and weekly crafternoons. She is a recipient of a John and Renee Grisham fellowship for writing.