The drone of the office party was shattered by Bev. The old wooden chair she was sitting on gave way. Like me she’d come to the party alone. Now she was surrounded by a crowd of coworkers. I used the distraction to sneak out the back door.
It was dark and I walked the wrong way for a few minutes before I corrected myself and found the street where I had parked. A woman was sobbing near my car.
“Are you okay?” She looked up. It was Bev. She wiped her eyes with a tissue, then told me she was fine and thanked me for my concern.
I had mumbled “hello” to her a few times in the elevator–she had always smiled back. It was a smile I didn’t remember until now. I tried to atone for the weeks that I had ignored her at work. “Why are you crying?”
Bev spoke clearly: “I broke the boss’ chair– it’s been in his family for 100 years.” I grabbed her shoulders gently. That’s how it started.
Bev and I were married a few months later. Six months after that we were at home reading when I heard a crash. I looked up. Bev was on the floor. Her chair had broken. Over the next year Bev broke more chairs, including one at a friend’s house. She was of normal size—nothing that would predispose her to being a chair breaker.
We asked a therapist what it meant to be a habitual chair breaker. He admitted that he too had broken a few chairs. He told us to buy floor cushions. We did and lived happily ever after.