“Where I wish I was—” The man of forty—we’ll call him Bill—fell into his new sofa, legs lofting and falling also before they settled. “Where I wish I was,” he said again, punching one of the throw pillows that came with the sofa, satisfied that her attention was focused on him, “is—”
“Were,” Trish said. She’d deliberated only a split second; the smugness had decided her: his new place, his sofa, his stage-y collapse onto it, his thought. “It’s ‘where I wish I were.’ It’s subjunctive case. Like ‘if.’ ‘If I were a rich man.’ You use the plural.” Trish was thirty, sitting on the living room stairs, uncarpeted as yet. The sofa had arrived out of sync—a brown suede of great length, lots of pillows.
Bill swung his legs back to the floor so he could face her. “What in hell are you talking about?” he said. His brown hair fell forward and he jerked his head to toss it back. The boy-man gesture made her heart lurch.
She smiled, recrossed her legs. They were pretty and tan under the jeans, which she knew he knew. They’d been dating several years. “Verbs,” she said. “Never mind. You were wishing.” She poised herself to listen, elbow on knee, chin on hand.
Bill stretched back out but was quiet a few minutes. “I think I’ve done an incredible job on this place,” he said, staring at the ceiling, new. “I mean we have. Do you remember what it looked like when I bought it? You ran screaming from that back area”—here he gestured toward the red-tiled kitchen—“scared that you were sweeping up bugs in your dustpan!” He rolled his head, looked at her affectionately.
“Or worse,” she said. They had worn masks, both of them, to clean out the abandoned house he’d purchased, he who could purchase what he wanted! They’d mingled with the other gentrifiers on the Philadelphia street, comparing who was doing what. They were a dirty, grubby team, standing out front in their grimy clothes, their hair sprouting from the masks that cupped their faces, like survivors. They’d shower later—at her place or his—and, spanking clean, pleased with themselves, make love.
From her perch in the stairwell, Trish stared at Bill. The big brown sofa (masculine—that was what he said when he chose it) in the middle of the bare room, the sawhorses off to one side, the paint lined up (he had let her choose the pale gold color) on the tarp under the window, the man in the center. She was supposed to join him here, he said. But she had two little kids at home, with a sitter now, and the rooms—a hobby room, a library (he loved the word), a rompingly big bedroom-- were clearly not designed for kids.
“Honey,” Bill said. “What are you doing way over there? Come sit with me. You’ll really like this sofa.”
He nestled his head on her lap. “Where I wish I was,” he said. “Is here. Isn’t that funny?”