Red couch. Black polka dots. Red couch. Black polka dots. He figures if he keeps repeating it over and over he’ll believe that’s all it is. A red couch, with black polka dots connected by slight lines. She’d traced those lines countless times, she said it helped her think. Just a couch. It shouldn’t make his heart sink and make him search his mind frantically for another thought. He shouldn’t think of her crossing her legs demurely, laughing, crying, eating take-out on that couch. It’s just a couch. Other people have sat on it. Red couch. Black polka dots.
He notices a small coffee stain on the left cushion, remembers how it happened and the fight that ensued. She left a small espresso in her favorite little china cup on the antique table next to the cushion, and he accidentally bumped it while reaching for the remote. They scrubbed most of the stain out while she berated him. He replied that she always made mountains out of molehills. She threw a cushion at him. Afterwards, they laughed about how stupid it was, why should they fight, it’s just a couch. Just a couch. She laughed so hard that she snorted, which made them both laugh harder and they fell backwards onto the couch, ignoring the stain. Just a couch. Red, with black polka dots.
One of the front legs shows faint traces of lint and scratch marks. They had a cat, briefly. A grey one, with matted fur who’d seen some shit in its day. She hated that cat; it would sharpen its claws wherever it pleased. But she’d been the one to find it in the alley behind their place, she told him she felt obligated to give it some chicken scraps, look how thin it is. And, well, you know how cats are. So it stayed, and became the ruler of the house. He thinks that she got rid of the cat because it liked him more, would sleep on his feet and only purr if he was nearby. He looks at the red couch with black polka dots and remembers how she sulked there, pretending to read her novel as he played with Grey. He remembers sitting on the couch the evening after she kicked Grey out, and how he missed the claws clicking across the kitchen tiles. Her heels clicked past him instead as he sat, on her way to make them a snack. Black couch… no, red couch. Black polka dots. Just a couch.
One night, he gathered all the candles he could find and put them all around the living room. He bought a huge bouquet of tulips, her favorite, and placed them on the antique table next to that left cushion. That morning, he painstakingly dipped twenty-six strawberries in chocolate, and gently placed them in the freezer. He didn’t know what kind of champagne to buy, so he bought both of the bottles that the tired-looking liquor store employee suggested. She could pick, she was better at that. Not a single candle dripped onto that couch, not even when they burned low and she still wasn’t home. He ate a strawberry, called and texted her again. Ate another, left a voicemail, blew the candles out, and fell asleep with his face pressed into the black polka dots. When he got the news the next morning, he didn’t move, just pressed harder into the red couch. Black polka dots connected by slight lines.
They almost bought a brown couch, but decided on red last second. How gaudy would it be, she laughed, my mom would hate it! He smiled along but secretly thought the red stood out nicely and he hadn’t liked the brown anyway (he’d only gone along with it because she’d insisted that it match her oak table). She oscillated back and forth with the shop owner, insisting that they put the brown back, and to trade it in for the red. The shop owner smiled indulgently, because she was beautiful, and exchanged a bemused glance with him. He shrugged, as if to say, you know how women are. And it was just a couch.
The doorbell rings, and he gets up, walks away from the couch toward the door. There’s a small woman there, with bright blue eyes and long ink black hair, like hers. He realizes that he hasn’t said hello and starts, apologizes, and she smiles politely. Asks him if he still had the couch, did he still want to sell it?
Yes, the red one? Yes, come inside, it’s just in the living room.
She’s brought a large man with her, which he understands. For heavy lifting, and in case he was a psycho who didn’t really have a couch for sale. After all, what sort of normal person would title a Craigslist post with “Red Couch, Black Polka Dots. Just a Couch.”
Image is mine.