The Price of a Free Couch
The couch looked very comfortable, but that wasn’t the reason I chose it. It was hideous – the pattern on it the exact one as the curtains my flat came with. The ones I never found the time to change, until they became a running joke with my friends, you know which ones? The ones which used to be yellow but now have this horrid green look, a bit like vomit, a bit like day-old oatmeal. The ones with the purple pattern. The ones which must have been there since the 80s.
And the couch looked just like them. And it was free, and I needed a couch – and Craigslist has provided, as it usually does. I organised the delivery, promptly forgot about it and luckily got a reminder that morning. It was a Tuesday. It was raining. That’s why I didn’t think much of it when the couch came in a bit on the damp side (after all, no one bothered to cover a free Craigslist couch, and why would they?) and why there was a bit of a draft that came with it. I never really sat in that part of the flat before, so it was perfectly reasonable I wouldn’t have noticed. The windows weren’t exactly new either, and the advertised double-glazing was widely exaggerated. I had given Frank, the homeless guy who sometimes slept outside the block, $50 to help me get it upstairs and then Jamie and Alice and I had a “welcome to the new furniture” party. It was an old tradition we started when they had first moved in together and bough a set of half price lawn chairs instead of actual chairs. The tradition we kept up since then – it was just a good excuse to get drunk mid-week really. Strangely though – no one sat on the couch that night, instead we stayed around the table on the small plastic chairs as any night prior.
In the morning, the apartment was a mess and bottles and glasses littered the floor. You’d think the three of us would amass three glasses – but no, apparently a good night of drinking requires an amount of receptacles almost equal to the amount of shots.
Around the couch itself, though – nothing. Not a glass, not a bottle, not a single discarded bra. As if wind blew away everything from around it, in an almost perfect circle. Empty, empty space. I sat there, with some strange purpose, to eat breakfast, and I must say my cereal tasted disgusting and it had nothing to do with the hungover. The entire room looked wrong from this angle, tv a bit distorted, and jesus did I want to get up and move, but at that moment it was almost a point of pride, or rather a point of pure spite, that I would not be defeated by the goddamn couch.
And I thought it was stupid, until something rubbed against my shoulder.
It was a cold something, but at the same time like a jolt of electricity. I felt it all the way in my toes, and I can’t quite remember if I jumped and screeched, or jumped and squealed (I’m certain the neighbours would be able to clarify.), but I can with all confidence maintain that I had scurried away with a speed I had never before attained. Where was this something when I was at school, during murderous PE classes? I jest, of course, but only because it was an experience so petrifying, and I have no emotional capacity to deal with it appropriately.
I looked back at the sofa, clutching a fist to my chest, half a bowl of cereal on my pyjama bottoms and half on the floor. There was nothing there, only the air didn’t feel quite right, and the milk moved slowly, slowly across the floor, until it reached the strange line of garbage from the night before and stayed there, not a drop remaining along the trail.
“What the flying fuck…”
The words escaped me and somehow ripped me out of state of shock – but that wasn’t all. As if only waiting to be spoken to, a shadow appeared violently, burning into reality, ripped just as I was back into this world. It sat on the couch, slowly becoming less of a shadow and more of a shape, until I could tell where the couch dipped to accommodate its weight, could see the legs were splayed wide, the figure poised not unlike someone sitting slack in front of a tv. Just like that, there was a person there, were before there was only stale air. A person of flesh and blood – only not.
“What the actual fucking fuck.”
Does it count as speaking, if the words formulate themselves as if with no involvement of the brain? I must have abandoned my ability to think before waking up that morning, lost it in a bottle of wine maybe, drowned it in tequila.
There he was, scratching at his stubble, as if this was just a normal, everyday occurrence, to come into existence on a nasty-ass couch in someone’s living room.
(This is when people tend to ask me did you know then already? Did you know straight away? Because they want to hear of magic and of star-crossed lovers. The truth is, all I knew was that I was going insane – and even that I was shaky on.)