Posted by jdg | Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | ,

Our couch was the first piece of real furniture I ever purchased. Through law school we used hand-me-downs, and during those months I lived in the quad, I used an actual blow-up couch my parents gave me as a birthday present when I turned 22, dense and heavy in a 12" by 16" cardboard box. When I got my signing bonus and signed a lease for an apartment in San Francisco, I decided to buy a couch that didn't (1) smell like Nixon-era onions; or (2) lose several pounds of air pressure when someone's ass occupied it for more than three minutes. As luck would have it, the fanciest furniture dealer in SOMA was having its annual floor-sample blow out that weekend, so Wood and I walked around the sale shocked that furniture that had cost so much to begin with could still cost so much when marked down 75 percent. But in the very back of the store we found a gray Flexform sofa that we both loved, originally $5700, marked down to $1250. As I paid for it, the impeccable little saleswoman informed us that the delivery charge was $300. "Fuck that!" I said. "I'll tie it to my rear bumper and drag it through the streets before I pay a $300 delivery charge." She shrugged; she was one of that species of high-end salespeople who couldn't give less of a shit that you exist.

As I stood there pondering how many funyun-flavored couches I could buy at the Salvation Army for $300, I decided to walk over to the nearest U-Haul agency. It was a Saturday, so I had to wait four hours, standing around with all these Mexican day laborers before a truck became available. When we finally showed up to pick up the couch, everyone watched us as though they had never before seen anyone carry their own furniture. "They think we're poor," Wood whispered over our new couch as we maneuvered it through a selection of Artemide lighting. "Well, if they don't want us buying their shit they shouldn't have sales," I said. We got the couch home for less than $35.

In the summer of 2006, when we were preparing to move away from San Francisco, Wood suggested we sell the couch. I looked at it and grew hopelessly sentimental. This was the couch where years earlier, on so many Sunday nights, we'd fallen asleep early in each other's arms before waking at eleven to drive to the airport for the red-eye flights that took Wood away from me for weeks or months that year. The very day we bought the couch turned into one such night, in an empty apartment, a thrift-store television on the floor, a few DVDs, a pile of clothes waiting for hangers, and all I could focus on was how the only thing that has ever made me feel at home was hours away from leaving me.

Even after she moved out west, and we had a full bed, we would fall asleep on that couch watching crap on network television. We had a certain way of sleeping on it, a seasoned leg-and-arm tetris that allowed us to be comfortable even in such a small space. We'd been sharing a twin bed for years, ever since Wood moved into a shitty apartment her junior year and found a moldy old twin mattress and boxspring in her room. "I'll put a sheet over it," she said. I've seen mattresses on the curb after long, hard rains that grossed me out less, but I was sleeping with the hottest girl I had ever seen, so I couldn't complain. We always slept on twins. Until recently we've never had rooms big enough for anything else.

Every home needs a real couch, my wife believes---not a sofa or a loveseat---a couch you can stretch out and sleep on. In San Francisco, we positioned ours by the bay windows that overlooked the corner of Cabrillo and 2nd Ave, so we could sit there and watch souped-up 1991 Honda civics gun it from stop sign to stop sign out through the avenues. Some nights we would fall asleep on it only to be roused at 3:00 a.m. by "Ace," the homeless guy in a top hat who walked up and down our street fighting with his "slut whore-bag-cunt" of a girlfriend, or sometimes we'd be woken at dawn by the old Russian lady across the street beating her carpets on the fire escape. In the fall of 2004, with this daughter of ours expanding my wife's uterus, I lost some crucial real estate on the couch and could no longer fall asleep there. When Juniper was born, the couch became one of her favorite places. It was where we would play in the early mornings before I had to go to work, and it was where she would sit and watch out the windows for me to walk up the avenue. It was this couch where we retreated so many of those nights trying to get her to sleep, her crib in our bedroom, when any silence from her was suddenly as precious as those hours we'd once had on that couch before Wood had to catch a red eye.

I have some sympathy for compulsive hoarders; I understand illogical attachment to objects that incite memories. I don't get the people who keep old newspapers, but I know the unease in the faces of those people forced to throw away their old things on HGTV, the love for those small intimacies in an object's history. When we left San Francisco, we left the "home" where Juniper had taken her first steps, spoken her first words, done all those other treasured things that happen in the first eighteen months. We had to say goodbye to those walls, but I'd be damned if I was going to let some silly freight charges get in the way of us keeping that couch. It ended up costing less to ship across the country than that snooty store wanted to charge to cart it across San Francisco when it was still new, unstained by breastmilk, untrammeled by toddler feet. It's still here with us, and for over a year nearly every night I've fallen asleep there against the warmth of my wife, against my will to get things done. A vortex, she calls it, consuming the most productive part of my evening time, distracting me from all the things I'm sure I need to do.

But now, again, my position on the couch has eroded away, the wombling and his mother need it all to themselves. This is it, I think: the last trimester is almost here, the last chance to spend these hours in some pursuit other than the pure delirium of sleep, or the inevitable exhaustion of his coming infancy. Soon he will be here. I'd better get some things done.