Monday, December 7, 2009

Lament for a couch



Like so many of the animals whose paths crossed mine in the last five years, I often wondered about the previous life of our couch. When we found it sitting amongst the other couches and chairs at the Salvation Army it almost sparkled in comparison. Where other couches drooped in spots or sported shadows of ancient stains that had been scrubbed and scrubbed so they convinced the eye to believe them a trick of the light, our couch was immaculate.

The velour fabric gave the oranges and browns and army greens a richness that begged to be touched. It could be argued its only downfall was the colour scheme. The special blend of garish hues that screams 1970 is not something that would match many decors, but with our plywood floor and renters-beige walls, it was perfect.

The couch had definitely been sat on, but not really and truly used. Not like it was about to be.

Four and a half short years later, it sat cushionless, the front valance torn away and stuffing hanging out where thin strips had been peeled from the backrest. The arms, that had made perfect scratching posts revealed glimpses of wooden frame, the fabric that still covered the seat of the couch had become a muddy gray. A Murdoch-shaped sooty black smudge highlighted one corner while the opposite end was forever dotted with various dog toys. A squeaky football, a bright orange street-hockey ball, a tennis ball and a black Kong regularly co-mingled with Max’s bone and food dish - all things Murdoch collected throughout the day. The entire couch was also strewn with torn bits of cardboard as though a parade had marched by throwing confetti and streamers in great celebration. It was a sad sight.

When we re-purposed the couch, as first a storage area for moving boxes and then a dedicated dog bed, we planned it to be for Max. Our new house had lots of stairs; each room is located on a different level. Max, who had never been able to walk without a drunken swagger the entire time I’d known him, seemed to be finding it more difficult to get his back end to cooperate with his front end and I assumed, unwilling to tackle the stairs, he would stay in our spacious entryway with the kenneled Murdoch.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. We tried to get him to crawl onto the couch, which he had done with great pushiness bordering on a sense of entitlement at our old place, but he wasn’t interested. The couch was invisible to him.

Instead, with great determination he hauled himself up the six stairs to the kitchen three or four times a day. Either he really wanted to be in the middle of the action or, even gentle Max who loves everyone, couldn’t stand to be anywhere near the new puppy.

So the couch eventually became Murdoch’s space - once he’d been freed from spending chunks of his days in lock down. It wasn’t long before he set about destroying it once and for all.

Morgan and I lived beneath a mantle of guilt over that and shuffled that particular problem to the back of our minds where it would hum away quietly, waiting for just the right stress-filled moment to resurface. Then, we would discuss it all over again, an exasperating trod down all the same roads.

I decided we should find someone who wanted a re-upholstering project, but no one was interested, just as Morgan laughingly predicted. We did get one response from an ad we posted on freecycle. A bunch of college boys wanted it to actually sit on! Sit on? I couldn’t give this couch to anyone to be used as a couch, as is, unless they were decked out in full haz-mat gear. No. The couch had to go.

So we were back to the dreaded trip to the dump. It felt like we had failed. The dump is my least favourite place in the world. I find it utterly depressing. A kick in the face kind of reminder of our irresponsibility as a species; the ease with which people shed their extra stuff and then turn around and consume some more. I didn’t want to contribute to that with such a huge item, one that really wasn’t broken, wasn’t unfixable.

But it was making our living space less than inviting. We needed to make a decision. My way of handling it was to hum and haw, present both sides of the situation, then walk away shaking my head, hoping the answer would appear in some prophetic dream. Morgan really didn’t want to get rid of it, but he really didn’t want to keep it either. At one point he suggested just moving it outside.

I had visions of a weather beaten, rotting hulk emerging in the spring from a couch-shaped mound of snow that had occupied my view for months. For Morgan, who has a junk yard side to him, moving the couch outside behind a shed until we figured out what to do with it was a legitimate solution. For me, it made my brain curl up into a tight fist and beat against the inside of my skull. We agreed this plan would not work, and so Murdoch got to keep his throne for a little while longer.

1 comment:

  1. Heather, you nail the physical world and its various resonances onto the page - well done! I feel as if I have a box seat overlooking your vibrant household and your keen mind. I like that you, once again, return to the couch motif, which poetically winds the sundry strands of the narrative into a single track. Beautifully figurative! Your writing maturity is showing.

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