It's the couch that has been evading me for over two years. The couch I love dearly. I've tried to buy it six or seven times. But it can't be bought. Believe me. I can not buy this couch.
The first time I saw it was at an antique store way up north. I was walking through the store and there it stood. Well made. Italian. Kitsch yet elegant. Perfectly proportioned and seeming to all but float on it's narrow chrome legs. It was just the right shade of the palest blue. A mid-century asymmetric wonder. Its upholstery was soft to the touch. Velvety. And textured with a not-too-over-the-top atomic fifties pattern. And it was pristine. The only explanation being that it must have been hiding beneath plastic slipcovers for the last forty years. It was a beautiful couch that had been released from it's plastic cage and was now ready to live and breathe as it should.
Now, I love furniture. I have seen a lot of furniture. But this was the best couch I had ever seen. And it was fairly priced considering all that it had to offer. I stood there looking at it for a very long time. I decided that it was mine. That I would forever refer to this couch as the divan, though secretly I would name it Laura Pertrie, because all great couches have names. I got totally swept away. But, then, some minutes later, I found myself pulling back away. I couldn't justify buying this couch. I remembered that I was trying to get rid of things. That I had a couch. That I was broke. Then, of course, when I got home I decided it wouldn't hurt to go back and take another look. And (of course) by the time I returned to the store in the morning, it was gone. Sold. And I admit, I was a little relieved. And I got on with my life, or so I thought.
Then, it was about six months later that I wandered into a local vintage clothing store. I had been searching all day for something to wear to a wedding. I was so caught up in this search that I almost didn't notice. And then I couldn't believe my eyes. There it was. The couch. Unmistakably the very same couch. They were using it as part of a display in the middle of the store. A mannequin, dressed in a gray and pale blue plaid pencil skirt with a gray sweater-set, sat sort of lounging on (and oddly color coordinating with) my dream couch. I had to do something. I just came right out and asked the woman who had been helping me about the couch.
She, behaving as if she had dealt with this query a few too many times, told me that it was not for sale. I asked if I could leave a message for the owner. Sensing my urgency, she informed me, No.. Bernice would never consider parting with the couch, and went on to tell me that it was rumored that the couch would soon be transported to Bernice's new house (after the house was finished being painted or fixed or floors refinished or whatever it was). I said, ok, but added that I'd like to leave a note for the owner anyway, you know.. just in case. Because now I was flooded with regret. The couch was even better than I remembered. The woman, saying nothing more on the subject, just took the note out of my hand and tore it up into little pieces. Needless to say, I bought my dress with it's missing belt and slightly torn hem, and left.
But this wasn't over. I decided I would go back and try to talk to Bernice myself. So the next morning I (armed with a purse full of cash) walked right over to the store. And when I got there I couldn't believe it. The store's windows were soaped over. I just kept trying to blink away what I was seeing, and checking to see if I was at the right address. I looked in the window where it wasn't quite soaped over, and I saw that everything except the couch was gone. The couch, looking quite abandoned, stood there in the center of the empty rubble (and millions of beer cans) of what I can only imagine must have been the hastiest move ever. I looked around to see if there was a note or something explaining where they had moved. Then I called. Nothing. No machine. And nobody, I mean nobody knew what was up with that store.
For a few days I just kept walking past, looking into the window at the abandoned couch. My couch. All sorts of things went through my mind. And the whole thing did indeed take on a life of it's own, as the people who knew about all of this started getting crazy ideas in their heads. I must say, there was more than one vodka and cigarette saturated night spent around the table where schemes concerning the liberation of the couch were discussed, hatched, planned. All the while the couch waited, only a few blocks away. Of course, it was all just a lot of talk. Pipe dreams. The kind of thing that gets people through the worst part of winter, I guess.
Then, if you can believe it, I forgot all about the couch for the better part of a year. I had a surprise personal adventure that led me far and away from my unanswered questions pertaining to the couch. And when I did think of the couch, which at this point was only rarely, I tried to imagine it in a better place. That is, not in a land-fill as I feared, but indeed in Bernice's living room where it belonged. It was the only thing that was acceptable, and this got me through.
Which leads me to last Friday. I was out with my mom, scrambling down Wells trying to get quickly to our destination without freezing to death, when I just stopped dead in my tracks. It was the couch. Again. And again it was being used as a store display. Only this time it was positioned in the store's window (where the sun was going to fade that perfect blue if they weren't careful). I was so shocked and hysterical that I could barely explain to my mother the whole thing. But somehow she got it. She sort of put up her hand like, say nothing more.
We went in. My mom said something to the effect of, just follow my lead.. or just act natural.. and, finally, seeing how keyed up I was, she said, just let me handle this. She seemed so dead serious, that for a moment I felt really confident about what was about to transpire. She went over and talked with someone named Paul off to the side. They had a lengthy, hushed conversation that looked from where I stood like a couple of people who were very genuinely, very politely, very heatedly trying to convince the other party something that neither party wanted to accept. It was clear. The couch was not for sale. Rather, I accept that I can not buy this couch. And, again, I feel almost relieved. It is out of my hands. I need not pursue this couch any further. Or any couch ever again. That is what I really want to believe.