Story of a Red Cabinet

I gained a new piece of furniture recently—a retro-looking IKEA cabinet, the size of a small TV stand, and bright red. It was the pop of color that caught my eye as I was jogging home on Thursday.

Thursday was an overcast day, a true gift in ever-sunny Berkeley (rain clouds give me less pressure to feel cheerful). Since the sun was behind the clouds, this also meant I could jog towards the water (I typically avoid jogging east because the sun is always in my eye). So, shortly after 4 PM last Thursday, I set off on a very nice jog.

I ran past my favorite plant nursery and a set of train tracks to get to Aquatic Park, which oversees the roaring highway and is bordered by an artificial lagoon, always populated by mallards (I love their velvety green heads and orange feet). Along the lagoon is a trail that I’ve never run but on Thursday decided to explore (after all, the weather was nice). I passed by a man with two dogs who asked me what the “M” on my sweater meant (“M” for “Chicago Maroon,” the UChicago paper). I passed by some old couples walking around the park. Another jogger also passed me, running along the trail.

A few minutes in, I began to wonder just how long the trail was. I didn’t have my phone with me and wasn’t sure how I could exit. Just as I was considering turning back, I saw the jogger ahead of me make a sharp left—turns out, there’s a space between the trees where one can duck out. I climbed out and found myself standing on the train tracks, though funnily enough there were other folks there, too, just chatting. So random.

I asked one of them how to get back on the street, and a man pointed at a nearby fence that happened to have an opening. Next thing I knew, I was back among buildings and street signs again (no more lagoon or ducks). I’m often surprised by how the unfamiliar can so swiftly transform back into the familiar.

At this point, it was nearly 5 PM, so I started jogging in earnest, hoping to be home…and that’s when I saw it, just two blocks from my apartment, sitting in front of someone’s garage—the red cabinet.

In that moment, I somehow had the feeling that everything I’d done that day (every interaction I had, every turn I took) meant to lead me here. So, I asked the cabinet’s then-owner if she was trying to get rid of it (yes!) and proceeded to lug it home.

It was a heavy cabinet, and the pieces began to fall out as I heaved. An elderly couple asked me if I was going to be alright as I picked it up, set it back down again, and so on. The lady who gave it to me asked me if I needed help. More interestingly, a woman on her bike gave me her card (she’s a bee farmer) and told me to ring her if I preferred blue (she has the blue version of the cabinet and is interested in a switcheroo).  

But now, the cabinet has replaced our jank shoe rack, adds a splash of color to the living room, and I love it. My arms are still sore from carrying it home and up the stairs but I’ll always remember the story of how it came into my life (considerably condensed here, I assure you!).

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