I’m sitting in what’s left of my living room on the couch I’ve hated since day one. It’s an Ikea couch, the ascetic pinewood slats and cream-colored cushions suggesting futon more than couch, and if the damn thing was a futon I would probably like it a lot more, but it isn’t. It’s just the most uncomfortable couch I have ever owned, “gifted” to me by the previous owner at a time when I couldn’t afford a new couch, and somehow never replaced. I have had to repair its rickety frame with screws and wood glue from time to time (I fell through it one nigh during a particularly scary episode of Ghost Adventures but fortunately managed to avoid soiling it). I sat here, right where I am sitting now, as a matter of fact, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, pitched forward at an expectant angle until Porter found the end zone and then nearly overturned this couch as I leapt up in a spume of beer foam, some of which still stains the threadbare upholstery. I’ve sat here countless times watching Yankees games, finding comfort in the hypnotic rhythm of the game. And I’ve sat here with my son, as he grew from a toddler to a little boy, watching movies and reading books and building forts from the pillows and blankets that bedeck this couch, as we’ve vainly tried to make it more ergonomically and visually pleasing and to hide the stains of countless spilled sippy cups.
But I’ve never sat here comfortably until this morning; with my life stripped to an empty room, this couch, which I’ve always detested is the most comfortable it’s ever been. Facing forward, between the large casement windows punched through the foot-thick brick walls of our loft, the sun is still about twenty degrees away from illuminating the spot I’m sitting in, and out of the corner of my eye I can see the American flag I always fly undulating in the wind, a series of sine wave snapped straight from time to time by the stiffening breeze. I have always loved mornings here best. If I go to the window, I can see the New York Life Building’s resplendent gold top, and the slender bone-colored tower of the old Metropolitan Life Building — the Empire State’s obscured by the corner of the building, and I’d need to go out on the roof to see it — but I’m content to sit here for now. Today is going to be a long day, as I am literally and figuratively trying to pack things into little boxes to place into storage for further consideration somewhere down the road.
I would be lying if I said this couch was physically comfortable today; it still twists my back at odd angles and the sagging foam cushions are permanently and oddly indented and never stay in place, so oftentimes your vertebrae are uncomfortably pinched by the bare wooden planks that alway seem to find the pointy part of your shoulder blade as well. No, today, this couch exists only in the realm of ontological or metaphysical pleasure; reassuring me that it’s not that bad; that I’m not a terrible parent; that everything will work out for the best… that opportunity only knocks once.
I was sitting here when I received the email that set this day in motion months ago, asking me for writing samples for a yet unpublished Louisiana culinary magazine that wanted “new voices,” and I was sitting here when I wrote my first column for said magazine, writing almost 6000 words that I pared down into 700, and which I still eagerly await to see in print because until I hold the magazine in my hands I won’t believe it’s true.
But most recently, I have been sitting here discussing the upcoming move with Rylan. Trying to manage the psychic uncertainties of leaving a place that I have called home for the last 18 and most of my 40 years. Trying to imagine my life in not only a new place geographically, but culturally. Trying to come to terms with not seeing my son almost every day, a thought unimaginable a few years ago when I was working 12 hour nights on the hot line in a NYC kitchen, followed by 5 hours of sleep and then eight hours with him as he learned to walk and talk and has now grown into a 5 year old who can these days do so much for himself. A self-assured 5 year old who has been reading since 3 and who is fortunate to have two parents who love him very much and respect each other despite the fact that they didn’t work out. A 5 year old who is comfortable with the fact that “Daddy will be away on business for a little while,” a provisional tale that is more for my benefit than his, trying to reconcile the part of me that knows that I have to take this job with the part of me that is devastated by the thought of not being a few blocks away as I desperately search airfares so I can try to get home every six weeks or so. All of these feelings weigh heavily, as heavily as I do on this couch, which has a permanent sag in it’s center from my weight.
Some things you take with you, and some things must be left behind, and this couch is a casualty of the move. It will not be heading to New Orleans, will never get to hear the clacking of the streetcar along St. Charles street or stain with the boozy sweat of Mardi Gras. Nor, most likely, will it remain ensconced in the high ceilinged Hoboken loft it has called home these past 5 years. The new tenants will most certainly find it disagreeable, dated, and uncomfortable. But today, it is the most comfortable thing in the room. Today it is holding me up, as I consider all that’s ahead, and all that’s left behind…