Amy Butcher: “A Couch is a Couch is Deception”

The problem with the breakup was not the breakup itself but the couch traded between them before it happened. This was an old couch, something of a family heirloom, and what mattered was not its quality but the history it held—this was a couch she’d often played on as a child, tucking the pillows in, violently shrieking, its 80s-era floral cushions still inundated with crumbs and pieces of Ritz crackers smothered in peanut butter.

His ownership of the couch now seemed wrong, as if the universe should step in and do something about it, and she wished it would hurry up. She regretted ever giving the couch to him in the first place, though at the time it seemed the easiest thing to do; it would be a burden to try and move it—lifting, hauling, having to ask him politely for help. It seemed easier to leave it there, along with him and the rest of her life she was so carefully but quickly abandoning: the bookshelf and old kitchen table, the nautical vase adorned in rope, plastic ladles, a hand-thrown mug.

She reasoned that even if they broke up after her departure—and of course, she was departing with the hope they would—it wouldn’t matter that he now had the couch. It was, after all, just a couch.

But now that she was gone, she thought of the couch and other things: the woman undoubtedly lying beside him on that old couch, for example, her body thin and tan like a matchstick. She imagined the words the woman might use.

“It’s so nicely broken in,” and, “what a lovely, elegant slipcover.”

Indeed, the slipcover was something of a source of pride—she’d spent three days and eighty dollars on it some several months before and yes, he’d say, it was, indeed a very nice and classy slipcover, and of course he’d take that credit, and in so doing, further endear himself. She imagined the new woman now rolling over and onto her stomach in a sort of admiration, lifting her ankles like tiny toothpicks, thinking, This apartment is a fine place to be, unaware it had once been her apartment, and in fact that couch was, rightfully, still hers. The woman would run her fingers along his wrist, one she presumed capable of selecting fine home décor, and might even envision their future home—white wicker rocker and seasonal mums—and the children, equally fine.

And how now she wished that she could be there, sitting on the furthest edge of that beige slipcover, and remind them both that underneath, something was positively stinking, full of the mold and gunk of childhood, crusted boogers, dehydrated scabs. And anyway wasn’t his forgetting or withholding sort of a lie in its own right? Wasn’t that a shitty thing to do?

Yes, she thought. It was.

Amy Butcher is an essayist whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Tin House, Salon, the Kenyon Review and Brevity, among others.

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