A minute or so after she didn’t snort coffee through her nose she looks at me like I’m the weird one.
“This couch, actually.” I tell her, patting the red leather. “But I’ve had it reupholstered since then, so there isn’t much Scott essence left.” Steve has joined us in the room, back from walking the kids to their meet up point in the woods. Its walking Wednesday today. He is a little groggy still, but she looks to him for confirmation, the other sane person in the room. A guy just lived on her couch? While you were dating? He isn’t quick to answer, he hasn’t had much coffee, and even fully charged he is never tripping over his words the way I am, as they pour out too quickly for my tongue to handle. After such composure his answer is brief. “Yeah.”
It was back when I owned the restaurant, and he was a line cook, dumped by with his girlfriend and essentially homeless. I told him he could crash at my house. None of it seemed odd at the time. Restaurant hours are weird, staff becomes family, it would have interfered with his ability to work if he had to do an apartment search, come up with first, last, security. It was just easier to host him for a while. I had an extra room, the “bed” room. It was so small that I had the carpenter build in a bed with a bookshelf head board and drawers beneath, ship style. Scott wouldn’t need much more than that I figured.
But he preferred the couch.
After a month or so I realized that he was probably depressed over the break up, or maybe globally depressed, and we would talk a little, but mostly we just watched reruns of Dawson’s creek. When I would get up in the morning, hours earlier than him I would push his feet aside so I could claim the only comfortable spot in the living room. I would see him later at work, the prep kitchen was next to my office, and each day I felt a bit of surprise when he made it in, but he did every day. Small miracles and all.
When we entertained he would rally, making mis en place for the party like it was his job. Almost cheerful in the kitchen, but when the friends arrived he would take to the couch. Most of the time sitting, but slumping down into his usual position by the end of the night. I wonder now how many people thought our arrangement was odd. My mother I’m sure.
When I got the puppy to meet the guy and had actually met Steve 3 times in a row I came home from the dog park, and pushed Scott’s legs aside with more fervor than usual. He opened his eye a crack and I told him I had met the man I would marry. “Doesn’t he have a girlfriend?” Scott asked, ever practical. He did…and I even liked her, but I knew we would end up together, and I stopped making any special efforts and just let it happen.
Neither Steve nor I remember the first time he met Scott, he was more like an accessory of the house at that point, much less troublesome than the reality of Steve’s broken hearted girlfriend. I had outfitted the living room with my dream windowseat, but it wasn’t in fact comfortable. The depth was off, and there was too much glazing to curl into it.. really the couch was the place to be. The three of us didn’t fit very well. Operation reclaim the couch became a bit of a fame with Steve and I. Instead of helping him move out and reclaim his life we just spent time trying to get him off the couch. I asked him to take the puppy (who had served his purpose) for a walk. I’d convince other staff members to invite him to shoot pool. Just brief periods of time when the living room was missing its primary resident. When he was already in there Steve and I would pile on, being uncharacteristically demonstratively affectionate with each other, forcing Scott into the shower and on with his day.
Our big opportunity came when his parents were visiting. He was up in the kitchen, sharpening his knives, which seemed the harbinger of change. “What’s up?” I asked him. Really meaning “You’re up?” “So… he replied, my mother is visiting…” I imagined answering the door to meet a poised and polished woman, and showing her through the remodeled victorian to the living room. Where her son would be asleep at 1pm with his backpack full of clothes at his feet. It was a pretty likely scenario, except that I wouldn’t be home to answer the door, so she would have to ring over and over until he woke up. I proposed that things might make her feel a little more at ease if he took his backpack into the “bed” room and settled in a bit. It might seem like a more traditional arrangement. So he did. For his mother.
It wasn’t long after that that he moved out. I imagine the couch felt more like crashing, the bedroom like living.
I finish telling my coffee date about Scott, leaving out any details that might make him a real person, for the purpose of this story he is a Scott on the couch.
In real life he is tall, attractive (if greasy), intelligent (if melancholy), and an increasingly good cook. I bet he is thriving somewhere now. I bet he even owns a bed. Just not sure if he uses it.