When I was in my mid-20s, the love of my life was a couch. It was a futon sofa, specifically, and it was supposed to convert into a double bed, but the futon frame was broken and hardly functional since the day we met. Which was appropriate, because so was I.
I recovered the futon frame from the alley behind my 35th Street condo, next to a dumpster between my building and the adjacent apartment complex. At the start of every college break (the end of every college semester), that no-man's land between the two buildings served as Purgatory for various pieces of furniture and junk.
I noticed the futon frame there one day, and it looked to be in decent shape. I called a friend to come over and inspect it with me. [A good rule of thumb -- never dumpster dive alone.] The futon frame was solid wood, and we couldn't find anything overtly wrong with it.
Had either one of us been an engineer, we might have noticed the problem right away. But we were not engineers. We were girls talking about futon frame paint colors as we lugged it up three flights of stairs, one section at a time. Back in my living room, we reassembled the frame so I could start cleaning it up. It was then when we discovered the source of its dysfunction.
The frame was missing a bolt.
The bolt must have fallen out when its corresponding slat of wood split and broke. Turns out that the split slat was a pivotal piece of the frame. It was the piece that pivoted during the frame's transformation from couch to bed. The boltless split slat also served as a buttress. It was responsible for maintaining the platform's horizontal position on one end of the bed.
With a broken buttress of a boltless split slat, that end of the bed tended to fold up on itself, so it looked more like a V than an H.
Suffice to say the broken piece rendered one half of its function useless, which is why it ended up in the alley in the first place, but no matter. The futon was a more comfortable bed when it was a couch and not a bed, mostly because of the brand new futon mattress I bought for it.
I also remember the source of my dysfunction - the end of a turbulent relationship and the beginning of living alone for the first time in my life. In fact, Id recently moved into my first official home -- a 650 square foot condo with a loft and a spiral staircase, centrally located about two miles north of the Texas State Capitol.
I had never owned a home before. And, since I'd never lived alone before either, I didn't know what to do with myself or my living space, but I was determined to embrace the change. I made some repairs. Patched walls. Upgraded countertops. And I filled it with things. My things. Borrowed things. Colorful things. Found things. Made things. And it wasn't long before I was content living there with my dysfunctional couch (and a dog and cat).
I loved what that couch represented as much as I loved what it had to give. It seated three comfortably and often -- four if we were all girls. It was good to my guests. It was true to form and multi-functional. It held me up. It gave me comfort. It said, "Don't leave," when I didn't want to leave. And it said, "I'll be here when you get back," when I did leave.
It absorbed the tears when I laid my head down and cried on bad days. It withstood an assortment of hot and cold abuse. It even tolerated a rabbit named Pickles. And it was only slightly worse for the wear a year later, when I returned Pickles to the daycare from whence he was rescued. And still it hung in there.
That couch was the core and center of my all-time favorite weekend ritual. On many a Saturday morning, I would climb out of bed in my loft, stagger down the spiral staircase and crawl onto the couch, flip on PBS, and lay around half the day watching cooking shows and drifting in and out of catnaps. Sometimes that luxury stretched all the way through the afternoons.
I was no fool. I knew a good thing when I had it, and I knew that someday I'd look back on the experience and smile. In 2000, I left the futon frame for two salmon-colored chairs in Washington, D.C. Sometimes I miss those lazy afternoons with the great relaxo-couch. Sometimes I look back and smile.