As the voice over the intercom at the Ikea in Red Hook announced the 10-minute countdown toward closing, I grabbed my soon-to-be roommate and told her to hide under the bed with me. "Quick! Before anyone sees!" I hissed.
She was surprisingly compliant, walking around the bed we had been examining in a relaxed stride and taking a nice look around before she did her stop, drop and roll.
As a petite, 20-year-old Chinese- American who should have matured past her rebellious stage, the juvenile satisfaction of doing something devious and narrowly bypassing capture had always been one of my favorite pastimes. Still, this operation took more patience than my usual antics.
We had been stuffed under the bed for only 20 minutes, our necks craned towards one another, inhaling adrenaline-fueled breaths to muffle laughter, when the pain in my neck started spreading to my lower back. We weren’t sure what we would do with our night at Ikea, but the possibilities were endless. Until our whispers about how best to wreak havoc were interrupted by the shuffling feet of an employee, who decided to nap upon the very bed we were hiding beneath.
Awaiting his departure in silence, we had no other choice but to sleep the stillness away. After an agonizing hour and a half under the bed, the employee left and I popped my head out into the empty showroom to find all of the build-ityourself furniture resting beneath blaring fluorescent lights, a surprising change from the pretty spotlights that illuminated the room during the day. Under the after-hours bulbs the place looked like a showroom for furnishing a sanitarium.
With no thought as to what would happen next, I boldly grabbed the thick fibers of the carpet as though I was pulling out of quicksand. I looked around to see my partner in crime emerging from the other side of the bed. I caught a quick glimpse of the red exit sign and a camera mounted to the ceiling, staring at us like a one-eyed monster.
"Shit! Come over here!" I whispered as I pointed to our new enemy. She bolted as though she was dodging bullets in a battlefield, and we rested our backs against my side of the bed, out of view. We sat there for a while, half-expecting an Ikea cop to come around the corner and put us in a stylish jail that he had constructed himself, but no one appeared.
Comfortable with the idea that nobody was watching us, we began to talk about roaming the vast store. We were free to move about, but there was still the possibility that we were being watched; we decided to test the limits.
After circulating for quite some time, resisting the temptation to crash the kitchen for some of those famous Swedish meatballs, we decided on a cute country townhouse-themed girl’s room with a queen-sized bed, whose perfectly folded, glowing white linens were screaming out for tugging and pulling. We threw our shoes off, tossed open the covers and huddled beneath them like two little kids in a blanket fort. As a student living in the Village who mistakenly thought escaping the quiet suburbs of Dallas was the key to my happiness, the feeling of safety and solitude was a nice alternative to the hustle of New York City.
All of a sudden, through the crevices of our conversation, we heard bold, relaxed footsteps that indicated the stepper’s ignorance of our presence. There was faint static noise seeping through the headphones of the creature coming around the corner. The indistinguishable sound was invading our Thursday night holiday away from everyday life.
When the night guard pulled back the sheets of our cave-like enclosure, she gasped then blurted out, "Ohh shiiiiiiittt!" I jolted upright and immediately started making excuses. "We got stuck and we didn’t want to set off any alarms leaving," I said all at once. I figured keeping it short and sweet was the best way not to reveal too much.
"You’re not supposed to be here," she said, stating the obvious, clearly confused by how this could have happened. We got out of bed reaching for our shoes and jackets. Without questioning us, she called down another guard. I was awaiting a very intense grilling from whomever was being sent our way, but when he got there no questions were asked. The two security guards simply walked us out to the back exit while griping about the report that would need to be filled out.
And just like that, we were thrown back into the real world. Well, Red Hook. And now we had to figure out a way home. While we walked through the silence of early-morning Brooklyn, a homeless man strolled by, his cart filled with a pile of belongings that seemed to defy gravity. Our one-night getaway had come to an end. We had been thrown out of our bubble, and now we were faced with the world once more.