The next morning found me staring glassy-eyed at the relatively empty living space downstairs.
We’d managed to buy quite a bit of furniture in San Juan the day before but we still didn’t have a sofa.
And a sofa, alas, was unlikely to materialize in Vieques.
If I’d been the dramatic type I would’ve torn my hair and wailed. Instead, I whimpered for a few minutes and ate some Cheerios.
Around ten a.m. Michael loaded me into the car and drove me into Isabel, where he strong-armed me into the one and only furniture store on the island, an emporium whose garish wares made those we’d strolled past with such disdain the day before seem like masterpieces of restraint.
I considered grumbling but decided against it—Michael can be very determined when he’s worried about me or when he’s just sick of hearing me complain.
And when he’s in that mood there’s absolutely no use resisting.
The selection, as expected, was appalling: Louis XV style living room “suites” in gilded wood with embroidered upholstery (who would burden his tropical getaway with such ornate stuffiness?)…
Early American-style side tables with quaintly turned legs…
…and, intriguingly, a half-keg coffee table that had obviously been designed to grace the rec room of a Milwaukee tract house but had somehow migrated south to the Caribbean.
The proprietor rushed over excitedly to greet us. “You find what you need?”
“Hmm…” I began disingenuously, not wanting to hurt the guy’s feelings despite his rampant bad taste.
“Not so much,” Michael interjected. “Is this everything you have?”
The man’s face lit up, then fell. “Ah, we have some very plain things upstairs. But nothing you would like.”
Plain things. That’s exactly what we would like. “Could we see?”
He led the way through a back door and up an external staircase, apologizing all the while for exposing us to the unworthy trash we were about to encounter.
The unworthy trash, of course, was exactly what we were looking for.
The first thing we saw when we walked into the dusty, shadowy space was a dark-stained rattan two-seater sofa with off white cushions. Nearby were two matching easy chairs and a coffee table.
Making a quick calculation that the proprietor might be willing to part with such “undesirable” merchandise at a discount, I offered seventy-five percent of the asking price—a savings of more than $300.
He jumped at it.
But back downstairs, once we had arranged to have the pieces delivered, he took me by the elbow and steered me back toward the half-keg coffee table.
“Very high-class piece,” he said.
“It’s nice, but I don’t think…”
“Fifty percent off, and free delivery for everything.” He really was a very persuasive salesman when he tried.
I admit I wavered a bit. Maybe it wasn’t so hideous after all. Maybe we could use it as a trough for the neighborhood horses to drink from.
Or firewood, if we’d had a fireplace.
“We’re done here, thank you,” Michael said firmly, guiding me from the store.
It’s so wonderful to be saved from yourself sometimes.