Evidence of Joe
by Jace Daniel (b. 1969)
Like any engaged couple, they were only going to need two nightstands. One for each side of the bed. And yet, they had four of them. A decision needed to be made as they stood there in her bedroom: which two nightstands to keep, and which two to toss.
Her nightstands were nothing special. Plain, practical, with a distressed pine finish. A forgettable creamy wood finish with sort of a greenish speckle. They even matched her bed frame. It was the kind of bedroom set you thought you got a great deal on at the time in the nineties, when in reality you probably paid way too much for it only because the Mexican was this side of the border.
“We can use these,” he said. “Or mine. I don’t really care.” He really didn’t.
“I like yours better,” she confessed. “Especially since we’re going to be using your bed frame anyway. Only thing is, I don’t want to use your nightstands if she picked them out.”
The guy thought. Pondering.
“The ones at my place were no big deal,” he said. “I think we probably got ’em at a flea market back when Clinton was president. I might have even been the one to pick them out. I can’t remember.” He really didn’t.
He walked around to her side of the bed and tried to open the drawer of her nightstand, pulling its cheap wrought iron handle. It was jammed.
“These drawers even work?” he said.
“I haven’t opened that drawer in about twelve or thirteen years,” she said.
“You mean you’ve been in this house for five years, and you haven’t opened the drawer to your own nightstand?”
“It’s a time capsule,” she said. “I’ve never been able to open it since we lived at the place on the crest.”
“Two houses ago. This bedroom set was in our guest room.”
“You guys had a guest room? With a bedroom set???”
“You know,” she said. “The other room. I’d go in there to get away. Maybe watch some television. Be in my own world.”
He pulled on the nightstand’s drawer again. Still jammed. He felt with his fingertips under the drawer, trying to pinpoint the source of the jam. It was clear that the drawer’s hardware was not malfunctioning. It was as if the culprit was an object inside the drawer, wedged, keeping the drawer from opening. Perhaps it was a ruler. Or a dictionary. Or a power tool. Wedging itself against the back of the drawer at just the right angle, forbidding any movement.
“I’ve never been able to get that drawer open,” she said. “You’re the man of the house now. You get it open.”
He picked the nightstand, shaking it. Her bedside items began tumbling to the floor.
“Let them fall,” she said. “We’ll get them later. Do what you’ve gotta do. Just get that thing open.”
He cleared the night stand of its loose bedside debris. The lamp, a couple books, the bottle of water, her phone. He picked the entire nightstand up from the floor, dropping it down again. Whatever was lodging that drawer, he was determined to free it by way of force.
“I’m warning you,” she said. “That drawer is a time capsule.”
“Cool,” he said. “A glimpse into your past. A past I wasn’t a part of.”
“No, really,” she said. “I have no idea what’s in there. Consider yourself warned. There may be evidence of Joe.”
“No worries,” he said, lifting the nightstand even higher from the floor, dropping it, allowing its weight to thump heavily down on her bedroom floor. “Evidence of Joe. How bad could it be? His 24-Hour Fitness membership card? Pictures of you guys in Cancun?”
“I’m serious,” she said. “I can’t take responsibility for what you find. He could be in there.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s probably dry by now anyway.”
His words hit her a half-second late. “That’s gross –”
He dropped the nightstand once more, heavily on the floor, her bedroom walls rattling. He pulled the drawer by its handle. Still jammed.
“Hold on,” he said.
Crouching down to grab the nightstand by its feet, he lifted the entire piece in both hands, its side parallel with her bedroom’s hardwood floor. Lifting the nightstand up to his chest, horizontal, he dropped it to the ground. Whatever was lodged in that drawer would not remain unaffected by the concussion that was about to come.
The nightstand crashed to the floor, on its side. He pulled the drawer. It opened.
“Oh my god…” she said. “You did it. You really did it.”
He stood the nightstand up on its feet, its drawer now loose. Yanking the drawer open, she began examining its contents.
“Oh my god,” she repeated, pulling out a spiral notebook, packed with her handwritten notes from days past. “A time capsule of my life.”
“What’s that?” He pointed to the spiral notebook.
“My dream journal,” she confessed, reminiscing, perusing its pages. “I used to write my dreams in here. Wow…”
He began freely perusing through the rest of the loose items in the open drawer.
“Hey, a Target receipt,” he said, pulling out a slip of paper, examining its itemized purchases. “November, nineteen ninety-seven. You bought some batteries. Some candles. A carafe?”
Her fingers dug through the loose items in the drawer. Numerous spools of colored thread wedged themselves into the corners.
“What was the thread for?” he asked.
“I used to sew.”
He got to his knees and joined her in the excavation, sticking his hand deep into the drawer. He pulled out a folded paper manual for a Honeywell room humidifier.
“Thank God you didn’t lose this,” he said, tossing it aside, his hands returning to the buried treasure. “But seriously. What exactly was jamming the drawer for thirteen years?”
As a unit, the couple tilted the nightstand forward, its loose items sliding to the front of the drawer. A small bottle of personal lubricating gel made itself known.
“Oopsi,” she said, grabbing the bottle.
“Been there,” he said, his arm elbow-deep into the time capsule, feeling around. “Hey… what’s this?”
He pulled out a plastic electronic device, perhaps eight inches in length. Cream colored, nubs at the end, with a multi-speed electronic mechanism at the bottom of a compact shaft controlled by a switch.
“Ah, that’s mine,” she said, snatching the device from his hand. “Memories.”
She laughed. Then he laughed. Then they both laughed.
“Evidence of Joe,” he said. “I guess you weren’t kidding.”