Couch Love

This is the piece I read last night at my debut at The TWS Reading Series.

I dream about a couch.  But not just any couch.  I dream of the most sexy, gorgeous, and comfortable couch imaginable.   Every time I slide into her embrace, I fall in love all over again, and so does everyone else whose bum touches her cushions.  “Oh, this couch,” people say, and I smile and know exactly what they mean.  She is the couch that no one wants to leave.  She has curves in all the right places.  She’s lengthy enough for me to stretch out on from head to toe, deep enough for me to snuggle up with the one I love, firm enough to support the girth of my portliest visitor, and soft enough to feel like a pillow of clouds.

Who hasn’t had a relationship with a couch? Like beds, they’re one of those pieces of furniture that tend to come and go from our lives with some emotional attachment involved.  Remember your childhood couch?  It might have been a family heirloom that could magically turn into a fortress or a trampoline.  What about that torn and stained piece of work in your dorm’s rec room that smelled of fermented beer and other unseemly odors?  Speaking of which, when was the first time you had sex on a couch? If you’re like me, you’ve slept on couches of all shapes and sizes, all around the world.  Buying a couch can symbolize a step up in status, or expose the cracks in a relationship.

After several years of couch therapy, I’ve come to understand that our relationships – to couches, and even to people — change over time, as we mature, and our wants and needs change.  I’ve also learned the hard way, it can be a bear to get over your first love.

My first couch came into my life right after I moved into a one-bedroom apartment by myself for the first time.  The futon couch from my university days would now have the singular function of providing me with a place to sleep, and so, like the rest of my upwardly-mobile peers in their mid-20’s, I needed a “real” couch, a couch of my own.  A friend from high school happened to have a slightly used one she no longer needed, so for a mere hundred dollars, her cast off became “My First Couch.”  MFC.

Quite a run for the money, MFC and I had together.  Though to some she might have been nothing but cheap-stapled plywood and foam, to me she was the harbinger of maturity. She sported an off-white textured herringbone pattern, which miraculously managed to never showed a stain.  She was blessed with two ample seat cushions, and even came with her own adorable little side pillows.  Sure, if you sat down too hard on her, she’d give you a little slap, but she had more than enough inches for my horizontal hosting needs. I loved her, and she was very, very good to me.

After a couple years in my little West L.A. love den, I moved into a long-term house-sitting gig with the idea of saving some money for a couple of years.  The house, which was owned by friends of my parents who were away most of the time, was furnished with the saddest looking, old lumpy couches you’ve ever seen.   Even though the owners were hardly ever there, they insisted that their furniture stay in the house, so MFC was tucked away into the garage, and I lived with the old and ugly couches – a small price to pay, perhaps, for a rent-free existence, though it did put a major crimp in my style.

Six years later, I was ready for a new place to plant my tuchas.  Granted, I’d taken full advantage of my rent-free status to live a pretty fun-filled life, but at the end of the day, my bank account was awfully lean, I was romantically unattached, and it felt like it was time to move on.  The best thing I could do for myself was to get into my own home again and create my own space with my own couch.

And so MFC and I jumped in a truck and moved together to Northern California to set up shop in a sweet little apartment in the East Bay. My couch and I had some good times in that apartment over the next six years, and, as I predicted, I did get my mojo back.    But while I was as gentle with her as I could be, time wasn’t kind to the old girl.   She gave everything she had, until her foam had no more to give.

So it was, when I decided to move to Vancouver to live with my new Canadian sweetheart, it was clear that MFC would not be coming with me this time.  We would be buying a new couch together for our new home.  And so I tearfully parted with my sweet first couch, leaving her in the good hands of Good Will, and headed north to find the Great Canadian Sofa.

Once we arrived in Vancouver, however, things didn’t go quite as planned.  We found that our tastes in couches, like so many other aspects of our relationship, as it turned out, just didn’t jive. We struggled with the classic “form versus function” dichotomy. I was set on finding something comfortable, easygoing, a couch you could fall into at the end of a hard day and feel like you were being held.  My partner, on the other hand, was looking for something with an artistic shape and modern edges, something cool and austere, a couch you’d sit up on, not crash out on.

After visiting virtually every furniture store in the Lower Mainland – which, by the way, is a fine way to get to know where Coquitlam is – we compromised on one that we thought might work, but by the time it go into our living room, we both agreed it didn’t fit the space at all, so we sent it back.  And for the rest of the year that we lived together, a hard wooden bench brought inside from the front patio served as the seating area in our living room.   It was the perfect metaphor for my life – temporary, and completely and utterly uncomfortable.

In the eleventh hour of this seemingly ill-fated relationship, when I’d just about given up hope, we stumbled on a couch we both actually liked, which I took as a sign that maybe we weren’t doomed.  The fact that we found it in Seattle meant that we had to deal with the complicated, not to mention expensive matter of customs and duties, but since we couldn’t find a couch that we liked in the entire country of Canada, it seemed like a reasonable decision.

I was working from home the day the shipping company called.  As soon as I heard the dispatcher’s voice saying our new couch had made it over the border, the gravity of this major purchase – and the life decision it represented – hit me like a ton of bricks.  This couch was a commitment I wasn’t ready to make.  The voice on the other end of the line suddenly sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and all I could think was, “I don’t want this couch.  I don’t want this apartment.  I don’t want this relationship.  I don’t want this life.”   And so, I sold my share of the couch to my now-ex-partner and left Vancouver a few weeks later, the same way I arrived… sans sofa.

I spent the next few years back in the States living in furnished places with one crazy couch after another, and eventually made my way back to Vancouver, ready to start a brand new life.  I was more excited than anyone in her right mind should be about buying a couch for myself. This time, I was going to make my dream come true, and buy a couch that reflected the woman I wanted to be… mature, comfortable, elegant, fun and sexy… why not, right?

It didn’t take me long to find her.  She was gorgeous, playful, deep and long, and yes, had curves in all the right places.  She met my every need.  There was only one hitch… because of the way the stairwell in my second-floor suite was configured, it was impossible to get this couch, or any one that was similarly proportioned, into my apartment.  I even had the owner of the sofa store come over to make sure there was no way… and when he broke the news to me, I was inconsolable.  All these years, I had waited for my dream couch… the one that would reflect my independence, my self knowledge, that would say I’d arrived … and now the Universe was telling  me that wasn’t what I needed.

Eventually, I was able to see that my close encounter of the couch kind was simply a reminder to be happy now, where I am, with what I have.  And so I’m living simply, in some ways back to where I started, with an awfully cute, easy-going, top-of-the-line futon in my living room that happens to turn into an incredibly comfortable guest bed.

They say good things come to those who wait.  Well, I’m still waiting.  It’s been seven years since I said goodbye to MFC, and I’ve yet to find my next true love.  A girl can dream, though, can’t she?


5 thoughts on “Couch Love

  1. Hilary, I feel your pain. I have never *gasp* owned a couch of my own. I’ve gotten rid of a few pathetic ones belonging to others, but my own couch commitment? Sorely lacking. We do have a fabulous chair (a cushy slide rocker with cushy slide ottoman). Given that three of us have to share it, though, we dream of having a place big enough for a couch. Meantime, and given the opportunity, we lounge excessively in other people’s couches… testing them out. You understand.

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