JEN HAHN NIELSEN
Assembly Instructions for an IKEA® HEMNES Marriage
Step 1. Gather Your Materials
Pictograph instructions, taped on the bottom of the box. Phillips. Flat-head. What looks like a spirit level, which you didn’t know you’d need, but the bookcase is already in the middle of your apartment. Three hours on a Saturday when you should have gone in to work. Good looks. Insufferable loneliness. A cigarette burn that your father gave you when you were six that could have been so much worse (so your mother reminds you.) All of the contents in the 77 1/2” by 35 3/8” box, and you’ll hold onto the extra three bolts for 4 years in the junk drawer, just in case. Impatience. Naïveté. A willingness to continue, despite the warning symbols and STOP signs. A willing partner, as shown on the instructions, to help you lift the case up because you are somehow unable to do it alone. The partner is drawn to look exactly like you, smiling. Pencil behind his ear. Hammer in your dominant hand.
Step 2. Prepare the Sides
Lay the sides of the bookcase down on what is drawn to look like a large and ornate rug to protect the laminate. You’ll be surprised to learn that he’s brought his own rug, picked it up on the way over. Picked it up from the market uptown, the one that smells of sandalwood and piss, the one with used shoes for sale in new shoe boxes, but he won’t tell you that, he’ll say that he bought it at Lonnie’s. Screw 6 bolts (118331) into the designated holes. Clockwise. You’ll open a bottle of wine, and then another, and then another. You’ll laugh until your cheeks hurt. The pictograph warns you not to use the 112614 bolts, because they look very similar. You’ll always wonder if you would have been happier with those.
Step 3. Assemble the Top and Bottom
Four slender wooden pieces. Cam shafts. The other screwdriver. You lose the instructions and consider giving up, but he’ll find them under the cat you rescued last year together and his eyes will be stinging and wet and he’ll tell you that you’re the best thing that ever happened to him. Clockwise. Pound in the 101350s. Lift the bookcase upright by yourself because he’ll be on the couch watching a new show that he started without you. You’ll be surprised at how lightweight, how easy that actually was. Read ahead and notice that your identical, illustrated counterpart is no longer featured in the assembly instructions. The pencil is gone, too. Allow yourself the space to cry.
Step 4. Install Shelves
Realize that you’re almost done and notice that your bookcase looks nothing like it did in the IKEA store. Pout. Look out the window and envy the bookcases of your neighbors. Modest BILLY models with dog-eared seminal works. Alphabetized. Worry that you’ll never have enough books to make your bookcase worth the assembly. Worry that you are beginning to look old. Worry that people have been able to see your scars all along.
Step 5. Mount to Wall
You have an epiphany and go back to IKEA® to get the coordinating HEMNES glass doors for your bookcase in an effort to save something you’ve come to loathe. Your neighbors have all adorned their cases with glass. In the park, you see them toting their bookcases around in jogging strollers. To Mommy & Me yoga. Gingerly wiping up digested milk with a clean, dry cloth without harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Isn’t that a lot of work? you ask them while their glass panels interrupt, wailing, and they respond that it’s worth it as they rock the strollers and locate Sophie the Giraffe teethers with their free hands in practiced motions.
Assembly Instructions for IKEA® HEMNES coordinating GLASS PANELS
Step 1. Prepare and Install GLASS PANELS
This step will take 9 months, so you’ll need to plan your life accordingly. Quit your job. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Become concerned about the mercury in fish. Eat eggs that are brown and need to be washed first. Lie on the carpet and admire the grain pattern of your bookcase, tracing a finger down the side to feel the grooves on your swollen skin. Use eight 13324 clips and attach gently with a small Phillips screwdriver. Clockwise. Repeat on the other side. Try not to become depressed when the weight of the glass prevents you from moving the bookcase very far. Simply locate the nearest wall. Bend with your knees. The pictograph instruction booklet omits illustrating this step for you. Only allow yourself to briefly wonder how your neighbor managed to wrestle the BILLY/OXFORD model into her bedroom upstairs. Four GLASS PANELS; sixteen 13312 clips. Don’t allow yourself to consider that her pencil-bearing counterpart helped—it’ll be too painful.
Locate the original assembly instructions and complete
Step 5. Mount to Wall
Retrieve small screw, washer, and drywall anchor from junk drawer under the shut-off notices and hospital bills. Balance on a kitchen chair. Support your C-section incision with your left hand. Insert screw into anchor. Phillips. Clockwise. Avoid acknowledging the laughter coming from the bedroom and the distant hum of a laugh track. Avoid looking into the window of your neighbors’, into their pained faces as they scrub their bookcases with steel wool scouring pads in an effort to rediscover the grain in the wood under water stains and dust and crayon marks. Their GLASS PANELS will be outside, sitting quietly on the burnt grass, waiting for the steel scratching to stop.
Originally published in Heavy Feather Review