Harley entered IKEA as if he had a purchase in mind, but over the past year he’d never bought anything, not an Ektorp, a Billy or an Ormhassel. He was drawn by the maze of furniture showrooms, the bright lights and the cheery, small apartments fully equipped with everything needed for a normal life. He enjoyed getting lost and inspired at the same time.
One day he was in the lighting room watching a small boy turn off the lights, at least the ones he could reach. Harley maintained his distance from the boy, moving when the boy moved. Finally, a yellow-shirted employee confronted the lad.
“Are you turning off the lights?”
“Where are your parents?”
“There’s my dad.” The boy pointed to Harley, partially hidden by a lampshade.
As the employee walked towards Harley, the boy scampered out of the room.
“Sir, your son is…”
“I don’t know that boy,” said Harley.
The employee turned around—no boy in sight.
“Sorry,” said the employee. “Can I help you?”
Harley shook his head and left.
The low light in Harley’s apartment masked the mess: newspapers spread out on the sofa, dirty dishes on the kitchen table and in the sink. The boy at IKEA had been clever—distracting the employee by pointing to Harley. But that finger also unleashed an emptiness in Harley—he’d never been a father.
The next morning the apartment complex dumpster was stuffed with Harley’s mess–it was a start.