Sunday, November 6, 2016


I suppose it’s fitting that the first thing I write on my laptop while stretched out on my new sofa is about the sofa itself. After all, it took nineteen months to arrive.

That’s not the fault of a delivery truck driver. They only made me wait four and a half hours. And it’s not because a furniture warehouse burned or a vendor went bankrupt or some temperamental maker kept fussing over the fluffiness of the seat cushions. The delay was entirely my doing…by not doing.

When I moved back to Vancouver after an ill-spent decade in Nowhereland, I gave away all my furniture other than my bed. Technically, a little cash changed hands for a few items—fifty bucks for the six-month-old $900 chair, a twenty for a $500 mirror. (Perhaps the best decision I ever made was against pursuing a business degree. I’d have flunked out of college.) I just wanted everything gone. Moving from a three-bedroom, two-level house to a 570-square foot condominium, I knew things wouldn’t fit and, besides, the size and scale would be off. (Or, at least, I think that’s what home décor folks would say.)

In truth, there was a darker reason to chuck everything I’d amassed by the age of fifty-one. I wasn’t set on staying in Vancouver. I wasn’t set on staying anywhere. I remained firmly uncommitted to life, ready to succumb to the undertow of a persistent, profound depression. I held off buying furniture in case I mustered up the guts to jump off the Second Narrows Bridge, leap from the roof of my 28-storey building or swallow a bottle of whatever pill I could track down at the recommendation of a savage Internet troll. I wanted any aftermath to be with minimal inconveniences. My parents live 2,200 miles away. Why task them with posting my wares on Craigslist? They’d first want to figure out who the hell “Craig” is and what happened to the apostrophe and space in his business name. (I wonder myself.)

But sometime in the spring, I had my own reawakening. There were breaks between lows. Sometimes I’d go a whole day without thinking about suicide. I didn’t feel good, but feeling ambivalent was several rungs above where I’d been. I started to believe I might stick around. And that’s when I dared to walk into a Crate & Barrel. Didn’t buy anything—too soon—but I found myself drifting into other furniture stores in the months that followed. Sometimes I’d get sidetracked by funky credenzas or bold prints on pillows, but I knew it all had to start with a sofa. I still wasn’t sure if I could commit.

How long do people stick with a sofa? Longer than any of my past relationships, no doubt. A decade? Two? And still that nagging thought: Who will have to get rid of it?

I put off the couch quandary throughout the summer, instead pouring any extra funds into trips—the Oregon Coast, Ottawa, Dublin. If I spent recklessly, I wouldn’t have to think again about furniture possibilities until 2017. 

But somehow, in changing jobs, I came upon a small cash windfall. I still had money in my bank account by summer’s end. And then I walked into another furniture store with a friend as we waited for a Ramen noodle place to open for dinner. I looked. I touched fabric. I surprised myself by liking two models. My friend sat on one and noted it felt comfy. I tried it out. Was orange too kitschy? Then he waved the ring of other fabric options in my face. The sales guy swooped in and mentioned a half price three-day sale later in the week. That was our ticket out the door. It wasn’t quite the right time to buy. I had time to talk myself out of it. Surely I’d have second thoughts. Maybe even dark ones. My condo could retain its open space character indefinitely. I could go longer with a clunky plastic office chair and a stool that doubled as my dinner table. The sofa was too big a decision. It had come to represent too much.

Over the course of that week, I lowered my expectations. Happiness was too lofty a goal. Feeling stable was good enough. I celebrated by going off both my meds. And then on Friday night, the last day of the sale, my workload seemed to increase as quitting time neared. My co-workers gleefully filed out while I tapped away on my computer, with the finish line for my must-do project pulling farther and farther away. I eyed the salesman’s business card and chucked it in the recycling bin.

Slowly I began to make progress with my work. I solved the snags or found ways around them. Hours after everyone else had left the building, it was my turn to begin the weekend. No plans. Just me and all that condo emptiness. Driving home, I thought of the one that got away. Sleek, clean lines, steel gray. So much better than a wooden stool. And with rush hour over, I made better time as I crossed bridges and darted by drivers with too fixed mindsets of speed limits. (Merely suggestions, right?) I began to feel that sense of elation that comes after running two yellowish lights in a row. I set my sights on getting to the department store before closing.

Yes, I wanted that sofa.

And so, just like in the movies where the doubtful bride or groom makes a mad dash to the altar, I raced to The Bay. I arrived fifteen minutes before closing. (What was the rush?!) I clomped up five escalators and marched straight to one sofa, then the other. Both decent home companions, by the decision became clear.

I choose you.

And so here I sit on my new sofa. Ironically, it’s not the one I thought I chose. Did the salesman err or did I? This is what happens when a year and a half decision gets crammed into the final moments before, “Attention shoppers, the store is now closed.” It seems fitting that I should end up with the bridesmaid. I’m not about to send it back. We were made for each other.

This extended time sitting feels right. My butt and my back feel pampered. I can even feel a nap coming on. A future day home with the flu seems like something to look forward to. But it’s more than the obvious comfort that comes with what some of us in Canada refer to as a chesterfield. From my sofa, I see things differently. I have stopped several times while writing to gaze out my window and marvel at my water view. (It’ll go away with pending condo development, but so what? This is now.) I’ve watched the November sky change countless times in the past hour. The clouds darken and then seemingly softer, white ones drift into the mix. There have even been blinding moments of sunlight, a rare sighting at this time of year in Vancouver.

I see the walls of my living room differently. I glance at the empty floating shelves and realize they should come down. I don’t need them. I don’t want them. It’s exhilarating to have an opinion. I’ll have to Google how to get wallpaper off the wall the sofa rests against. The previous owner proudly told me he ordered it from Belgium and it is classy, but it clashes. (What does that say about my style choices?) I’m wondering about my next purchase. Coffee table? Desk? Maybe I can still find those flashy pillows. It’s a lot to take in. There is so much more to do.

Seems like I might be here for a while.

1 comment:

Jack Urquhart said...

Good. All good. Glad you're settling in. Congratulations.