It’s 9PM on a Tuesday and I’m in a U-Haul cargo van with my two female-bodied romantic partners riding fifty minutes outside of Boston to look at the king-sized bed Victoria found on Craigslist that will hopefully, as Finn puts it, “withstand the force of our lovemaking.” We’ve already exhausted every possible joke involving lesbians and U-Hauls (which are especially amusing because none of us identifies as a lesbian, and two of us don’t even always identify as women), and are now trying to remember the words to “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong” for an impassioned impromptu singalong after we swiftly deem the Soft Rock station not schmalzy enough for our current mood/s.
“There are like, eagles in it,” says Victoria, who’s driving and therefore powerless to Google lyrics. “And mountains high.”
“Hold on,” says Finn, who has crammed his/her 5’3” embodiment into the open area between the two front seats that’s probably meant for a suitcase. She/he finds the song on his/her phone and we’re in business. We even manage bizarre bluegrass-style harmonies that are an affirming surprise to everyone. Finn kisses Victoria on the shoulder and it hits me. Holy fuck. We’re all buying a bed together.
I’ve been dating Victoria and Finn for six months. I generally sleep over at their place between three and five nights a week, but they only have a full-sized bed, and I’m horribly allergic to the two puffy cats that live in that part of the house. I therefore hardly ever set foot in the bedroom.
Problem-solvers we are, we’ve all had sex together mostly on a queen-sized blow-up mattress in the living room. We navigate actual sleeping in various configurations of 1:1:1 or 2:1 or 3:0 on the bed, blow-up mattress, and/or sofa. It’s worked out up to this point, but now that the manic wave of wanton, heedless snuggling that comes with new relationships is wearing off, this arrangement is starting to cause problems. The upstairs neighbor has taken issue with the noise from the living-room hookups, and has started banging on the floor with a broom like a cardigan-wearing curmudgeon in a seventies sitcom. Not to mention banishing one partner to a transient blow-up mattress when it’s time to sleep doesn’t exactly enkindle a sense of trust and equality within a three-way relationship. We all decided that if this is going to continue (which, we all decided, it is) we needed to be grown-up queers and do one of the things grown-up queers do best: buy second-hand furniture.
Victoria parks the U-Haul and we stand in front of a picturesque New England house with a “For Sale” sign in front. Finn and I are both in half-drag, wearing men’s shirts and blazers. Victoria, who is more typically seen in three-inch heels holding a martini, is in yoga pants, Danskos, and a hoodie. She’s brought her tool kit. When Victoria brings tools, you know it’s serious.
Newburyport is an upper-middle class coastal suburb that reminds me of the conservative midwestern suburb where I grew up. The woman who answers the door is everything I think of as heteronormative. Straight mousy brown hair, slumped shoulders, thin lips. The house’s interior is fifty shades of beige, and the television is mindlessly on in the living room even though no one is in the living room. Every surface is antiseptic. This is the type of place I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying to forget exists.
Victoria makes adept small talk with this woman, Joan, while we walk up the stairs. Joan performs the New England traditional courtesy of pretending to be surprised by the late-October chill and Victoria puts her at ease by pretending to pretend to be surprised.
At last, we enter the bedroom and see it: a heavy maple sleigh bed, elegant in spite of its beige surroundings. Victoria sets to inspecting it while Joan, Finn, and I remove the mattress and box springs. I can feel Joan try not to linger too curiously on the two drag kings and ladyfag all shopping together for an enormous bed. We may as well be holding a sign that says, “Exactly what it looks like.”
We prop the last box spring against the wall and stand there. Joan says, “Are you all from Boston?”
The three of us exchange glances. We don’t know how out we want to be here. It would be horrifically annoying if straight-laced, cow’s-milk-drinking Joan were so offended by our lifestyle/s that she refused to sell us the bed. Finally, I say, “I live in Cambridge.” Joan nods and watches Victoria as she examines three deep grooves on the side of the headboard.
“I mentioned those in the ad,” Joan says. “I wasn’t trying to hide them or anything.”
Victoria smiles and nods and touches a gap between the headboard and bed frame. “I’ll just need to make sure this fits together properly before I buy the bed.” Joan is visibly unnerved by Victoria’s scrutiny.
“So you’re selling your house?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah,” Joan says. “You wanna buy it?” She laughs stiffly, then says, “I’m moving in with Denny.”
Before anyone can ask who Denny is, a short, blond bulldog of a man enters with a screwdriver. “Hey, d’ya need me to take the bed apart?” he says in a barking New England accent. He looks at the three of us like a dilettante birder trying to classify a murder of yeti crabs, then walks past and starts to unscrew the headboard from the frame. Victoria asks Denny to show her that the bed can fit together properly and he ignores her and continues to unscrew. Finn and I look at each other. We hate Denny.
“Once again,” Victoria says in her loudest, most authoritative man-voice, “I just need to see that these parts fit together before I spend money on this.”
Denny responds. He looks at the gap. “Oh, yeah,” he says to Joan. “It looks like this wasn’t put together right when you moved it in.”
Joan looks worried she might lose the sale. “Oh, that could have been the movers. Or Steve.”
Denny rolls his eyes. “Steve,” he says with the particular disdain reserved for a new boyfriend regarding an ex-boyfriend. Then he starts to bang on the bed frame with an open palm trying to force the two pieces together. It doesn’t budge, so he switches to a fist and bangs harder. I’m suddenly reminded of Finn and Victoria’s upstairs neighbor with her threesome-damning broomstick. I shudder. Victoria flares her nostrils. Finn grumbles behind his/her bowtie.
Denny’s face turns red as he pounds on the wood. We can feel him becoming more and more frustrated. Finn starts to get puffy-chested in anticipation of aggro bed-construction mansplaining. She/he is ready to fight Denny the instant he barks at me or Victoria. Victoria and I can feel that he’s ready to bark the instant we do or say anything about his methods. If we don’t do or say anything about his methods, he’s going to break the bed frame, and we won’t get our bed, and Joan will be stuck with a broken bed that she can’t sell because her boyfriend, who she’s selling the bed for, broke it. Someone needs to do something.
“May I try something?” I say, kneeling down next to Denny, who’s shining with a thin layer of sweat. He stops banging, looks around at the four female-bodied people in the room, and shrugs.
“Sure,” he says.
I look at the gap in question. There are three pegs and three holes that need to line up perfectly in order for the bed to fit together that are currently not lined up. Like, not at all.
“Here,” I say, “If you wouldn’t mind just lifting up the headboard here, then I can re-angle the bed and we can slide these in here.”
Denny wants the bed out of the house as much as we do. He grunts and lifts and I re-angle and we manage to slide the pegs into the holes. Everything fits.
Victoria, Finn, and I exchange facial expressions that mean, loosely:
“Do you feel good about this?”
Victoria takes out her tools and helps Denny disassemble the bed. Finn and I carry the box springs, bed frame, and footboard down to the U-Haul.
“I don’t like the way he’s talking to you and Vic,” Finn says as we head back in for the final piece.
“He hasn’t actually done anything, Finn. Everything’s fine.”
Finn shrugs, then kisses me. “I just had to queer this place up a bit,” she/he says.
When we reach the stairs, we can tell there’s a problem. Joan, Denny, and Victoria are attempting to maneuver the headboard down the staircase, but it doesn’t seem to fit. They lift and reposition it, but it still gets caught on the wall.
“I think it must come apart more,” says Victoria.
“How did Steve get this up here?” says Denny, grunting as he lifts it again. “Did he hoist it?”
“He didn’t hoist it,” says Joan.
“He must have hoisted it.”
“I’ll get Scotty. Scotty!”
A teenage boy with short, dark hair materializes. He’s in gym shorts and an athletic t-shirt and looks like he’d been in the middle of some important teenage business when Joan called him. He moves past me and Finn to the staircase.
“Scotty, come help us get this out to the van.”
They raise the headboard enough so Scotty can get up the stairs. Scotty suggests a repositioning that Denny ignores. Denny is concerned about marking up the walls. Denny says he would sooner take an ax to the headboard and give Victoria the money for the U-Haul than mark up the walls. Denny is absolutely certain there’s no possible way to get the headboard down these stairs.
Five minutes turns to ten minutes, then twenty. Finn and I can hear the frustration in everyone’s voice upstairs, but no one yells. Denny does not lash out at Joan. Joan does not snap at Scotty. Scotty does not shout, “You’re not my real father!” at Denny.
Finn and I go to hang out in the living room. The flatscreen TV sitting on the faux fireplace is playing Chopped. We check Facebook on our phones to assure ourselves our world still exists.
“His masculinity is the worst part of my masculinity,” says Finn, after a while. She/he is talking about Denny.
Finally, Denny and Scotty descend with the headboard. Victoria and Joan follow. Victoria takes out her wallet.
“Thank you so much,” Victoria says as she hands the cash to Joan. “The bed’s perfect for us. And we needed it. Our family is growing.”
Joan takes the cash and folds it awkwardly. “Oh, how great!” she says. “I guess mine is, too. Just not in the traditional way.”
Denny and Scotty pass back through to remove one more long piece of maple. Victoria nods and us and we follow her out to the U-Haul.
“I was right,” says Victoria as she reorganizes the contents of the van. “The headboard did come apart more.”
“That guy was rough,” says Finn. “I was about to bite.”
Victoria closes the back. “He wasn’t as bad of that type of guy as he could have been,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say. “He wasn’t nearly as bad as I was worried he would be.”
“And they all worked together as a weird little family unit pretty well,” adds Victoria. “It was a stressful situation and no one raised their voice.”
Finn shrugs. “Yeah, you’re right.”
Victoria and I kiss. “How are you feeling?” she asks.
“Good,” I say. “We have a bed.”
Victoria raises an eyebrow. “We do,” she says.
“Hell yeah, we do,” says Finn, with a smirk. “Now let’s get outta here.”
It’s 11:20PM on a Tuesday and I’m riding back to Boston with my two female-bodied romantic partners and our king-sized bed. The Soft Rock station plays “In Your Eyes.” We are all cautious and exhausted and in love.
Jade Sylvan is the author of Kissing Oscar Wilde, and also a poet and performing artist based in Cambridge, MA. Read more about Jade's work at http://jadesylvan.com.