On Couches and Changes
“Fuck that sad couch. We’re happy now.”
Last month, two of my best friends gifted me a couch. Not just any couch, I should clarify: the deep blue velvet sofa of my dreams, the one that had lived in their home right up until the moment they brought it over to mine, the one I had half jokingly half seriously requested they gift me when they were done with it.
They carried out the drop off in secret. I was on the East Coast visiting my mom and my brother and they coordinated with my housemate. When I got home from a hellish return trip that included an unexpected layover in Omaha because the supply chain shortage had resulted in our plane not having enough fuel to make the non-stop cross country trip I walked past my office and almost didn’t even enter. I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for five hours before work the next morning. But a shape I didn’t recognize caught my eye from the hallway so I peeped in and there it was: the perfect couch, no longer situated against the wall in my friends’ living room but now placed exactly where I had envisioned it in my office. It matched my floral print wallpaper and pale pink walls even better than I had anticipated.
My friends had left a sprig of Christmas tree on the couch, with a short note written on pink construction paper attached: Happy Hanukkah. Love you lots, Megan + Nate.
I visited my friend Gavin in Seattle twice last year, once in August and then again in December. When I visited in the winter he had a new couch in his living room. I complimented him on the upgrade, and we laughed together about how much had changed in just a few short months. I’d cried on the old couch. So had he. We had both been so sad in August. We were both so much happier in December. It felt nice to witness the shift in him and feel him witness it in me.
“I’m glad we got rid of the sad couch,” he said. “I’m glad we’re done being sad.” The Christmas tree, wrapped in jovial twinkling lights, winked from the corner of the room.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Fuck that sad couch. We’re happy now.”
The blue velvet couch is not the first piece of perfect hand-me-down furniture I’ve ever received from a friend. Years ago, when I first moved to Portland, my friend Tita was moving and needed to get rid of a brown wicker couch with floral print fabric cushions. I roped my friend Autumn, an angel with a truck, into picking it up with me from the spot Tita was leaving. The couch was large but light, and we easily hauled it back to my place. Before we left Tita described the trajectory of the couch, all the queer people in our community who had owned it before she did. “I’m so glad we can keep it in the family,” she laughed.
When I left Portland for grad school in New York I left that couch behind, too. First it stayed in my old room so Nikki could use it, then it migrated up to the attic bedroom where first Megan, then Chelsea, enjoyed it. When I graduated my MFA program I moved back into my same rental house in Portland, through some strokes of magic and luck, and now I live in the same house as that couch again though it’s not in my space. Chelsea is rarely home these days, splitting her time between two sweeties, and I’ve thought about asking her if I can bring the couch down to my room, but there’s no real space for it and it doesn’t really go with the decor. I like knowing I share a home with the couch though. I’m glad it’s still in the family.
Welcome to the 2022 version of HEY BABE, a (hopefully) bi-weekly newsletter from me, Vanessa, about friendship and grief and whatever else I feel like writing about this year. Those of you who have been here since the beginning will recall that I initially planned for this to be a writing project about friendship, but when my dad died on January 1, 2021 it became mostly focused on grief. I intended to send it out twice a month but in actuality only managed to write 11 missives all of last year. I feel fine about that, but would love to be more consistent about sending out this newsletter in 2022. As a way to motivate myself to do that, I’m acknowledging upfront that not every letter will be a fully formed essay. Sometimes there will be fragments, which is how I view the short stories about couches above. Sometimes there will be journal entries, or lists, or pieces that don’t really have endings yet. I’m going to let myself play, let myself be weird. Hell yeah. Thank you for being here, for sticking with me. I’m so grateful to you all — always.
I curated a personal essay miniseries called RITUALS for Autostraddle’s end of year holiday package, and while it is no longer the end of the year, I still think these pieces are worth your time. I had forgotten how much I love editing and working for a queer independent publication, and the work these nine writers submitted reminded me how lucky I am.
If you’ve been wanting to take a writing class with me, you’re in luck. I currently have two offerings available through the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute! I’ll be teaching a 10-week workshop and a 5-week craft class; you can sign up at the links, or if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Finally, it was my birthday at the end of last month — I turned 33 on December 21, Winter Solstice. If you were wanting to get me a birthday gift and haven’t yet, I would love nothing more than for you to donate to my friend A’s GoFundMe to help them recover after a truly particularly hellish year (even by pandemic standards!). A is a queer and disabled author and graphic artist based in Minneapolis, MN, an incredibly generous and supportive community member, and one of my dearest friends. It is not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t have survived last year without A’s friendship. If you’re unable to give money, please consider boosting on social media and in your networks. Thank you; I’m so grateful every time we can help each other.
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