Satin Octagons

By Anna Mitchael

A love story

I worked hard not to relapse. Really, I did. They say you should avoid triggers for behavior you want to change and so, dutifully, when shopping I gave a wide berth to areas that were danger zones. I asked friends to be considerate of my weakness and stow evidence of their own habits when I was coming over. Of course, this led to stiff conversations, but — I would remind them with a tight-lipped smile — change isn’t always comfortable.

Then I had a baby. And the bags under my eyes started looking less like carry-ons and more like the luggage you’d take if you were jetting to Paris. On an expedition to acquire lots and lots of shoes.

When one is excessively tired, one often cannot control impulses. When faced with a trigger, one often thinks to herself, “The bright side of a gunshot is that it wakes you up.”

I needed a win, and I knew just where to find it. All I had to do was turn my cart toward the danger zone. If the alarm bells in my head were getting louder, then I would be heading in the right direction.

Of course, all the time I had spent holding back was now holding me back. I could imagine the scene when I arrived home. As soon as I took the bags out of my truck, everyone in the house would know what I had done. I could try to stuff them under my shirt, but there’s something about having a crying newborn in the house that makes pregnancy jokes significantly less funny. I would have to march in with the bag in clear sight and my weakness apparent.

Why, oh why did I ever promise to stop buying throw pillows?

Yes, throw pillows. Maybe you call them toss pillows or decorator pillows. I have a friend who just calls them “decorators,” and that works for me, too. The nickname assigns them to the life they deserve.

Anyone who has ever wanted the feeling of a new room without actually investing in a new room knows the magic of a throw pillow. Cover up the grape juice here, test your tolerance for the latest color trends there, let your wild side flirt with furry animal prints without feeling like you put the “!” in Taxidermy!

The benefits of a throw pillow aren’t just physical. They are emotional, too. You know what fits perfectly in your lap when you are confiding your deepest secrets to a good friend? A throw pillow.

Got any idea what sails smoothly through the air when you are on the phone with your friendly customer service representative who understands English almost as well as your golden retriever? You guessed it!

What’s wrong with throw pillows? Nothing. Except that I have too many. Or so I’ve been told by my significant other.

“So, where will it go?” This is what he will ask when I walk through the door.

I’ll point to the chair I have in mind. Then he will point out that the chair already has a pillow. Of course it does! But as I will explain, that pillow can switch to the sofa, so the new pillows can go on the chair …

This is where he will interrupt. “Pillows as in plural?”

“Yes,” I will say. “There is more than one pillow but, you see, they stack together so they give the effect of one pillow — like so.”

And I will use my hands to illustrate “like so.” Like I so often do when I am trying to explain where, precisely, I feel fat that day or what new haircut I’ve most recently been contemplating. If I waved my hands like this to a woman, she would immediately see my point. “Ah,” she would say, “the layering of pillows, the increasing of love handles. Sweetie, you will look so hot with a new bob cut.”

But he will just look at me blankly.

And that’s when I will understand. Throw pillows aren’t a language everyone speaks. Some people need pillows to just be pillows. Inside cases, on the bed. Others of us want pillows outside their boxes. We use them as pick-me-ups and — you know who you are — venues for the embroidery of uplifting messages. (A typical pillow commandment: “Thou shalt not whine, but wine is fine.”)

I remember when I thought — perhaps I even wanted — my significant other and I to agree on every last single detail of our lives. I thought agreement was crucial to our success. But now, the more I see couples who are successful and those who, sadly, are not, the more I see there is no method to the madness that keeps two people together. All that seems certain is that there has to be a certain amount of madness involved — the good kind of madness, the crazy that keeps you different. And maybe what’s different is what keeps things interesting long after the sexiness of the bags under your eyes has faded away.

These are the things I think about as my shopping cart sits with its nose pointing to my danger zone. The aisle that’s stuffed with fluff and new beginnings is waiting. Will I practice restraint, or will I push on?

Again I imagine the scene at home, and I sigh. The new baby means we are already smack in the middle of a new beginning. Life is crazy and interesting and full on its own. It’s totally possible that a satin octagon of turquoise could send us over the edge. What I need most right now is an hour with a pillow that’s made for sleep, not for making a statement.

I decide, for today, to take my finger off the trigger. But I remind myself that the next time I need to let loose and go (relatively) crazy, I can change that decorating decision. After all, this is Texas, and everybody’s got the right to her own concealed weapon.

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