by Susan Gibb
It had been ridiculous; he was right I suppose. A white couch had not been a practical purchase. He always held that couch against me. Smirked with every little-boy jelly stain I tried to hide with pillows. I’d try every cleaning solution that I’d see advertised. Lady Macbeth with sponges soaked in brain cell-reducing fluids. Red wine turned blue. Melted Hershey bar came out yellow.
It was re-covered. Many times. I stare at it now and wonder why I couldn’t have done the same with myself. Perhaps I might have weathered time and marriage better if I’d donned a slipcover and started fresh. The final Tree of Life design might have picked me up. Or the one with bold pink and blood red roses that hid the spills within the petals. I remember the ice cream our youngest licked right off the cone. Chocolate landed on the stems and darkened clustered leaves. The strawberry slid across a rose. Vanilla soaked into the beige background. I had been amazed at the luck.
The last two times I’d reupholstered it myself. It was still expensive. I peel back the fabric layers like shucking corn, revealing the stains of a Christmas when he hadn’t gotten anything for me. Said we were grownups and he thought replacing the windows was enough. I said of course. There’s the cigarette burn that was the final straw. He didn’t even bother telling me when it happened.
The decorator told me that the rough thick fabric and the pattern was perfect for an active family. I hated it. In summer it would pepper my bare thighs with its nubby texture. The boys would point and laugh. He would shake his head; another bad decision, it said.
Three layers in I reach the original white--discolored into cream. I cut off all the excess material from other years. Pull out tacks and threads. The couch is not as badly soiled as I remembered. I wonder why I had it re-covered so soon. There is a small ringed mark on the right-hand cushion. I remember we were still considered newlyweds. I remember the night.
I undress completely, lay down on the couch. I close my eyes. My mind wanders to happier times. My fingers play with time.
published 20 July 2011