"There is no way you are going to fit that enormous thing in there," said my friend Sarah as she stood in the empty living room of my soon-to-be-apartment. She was an experienced interior designer with an incredible eye, but I wasn't convinced. I didn't know if I could fit that giant couch in the space, but I didn't have the money to buy a new one. And, to be honest, it wasn't just a design decision, it was an emotional one as well.
I had recently been priced out of the apartment I had lived in for ten years, first with a close friend and then with my boyfriend, who later became my fiancé, who later became my husband, who later became my ex-husband. I had many wonderful memories there, but some traumatic ones as well. Though I knew it would be good for me to get a fresh start in my own place, one that wasn't crawling with memories of my ex and our life together, I was finding it hard to wrap my head around it and determine what to purge and what to keep.
Sarah and I tried to visualize how we would accommodate the six deep-set sectional pieces into the small space, but nothing seemed quite right. The oversized couch had been specifically chosen for a large airy living room with high ceilings. The new apartment had a small living room with low ceilings. Even if we managed to squeeze it into the limited square footage, would it engulf the room and look unseemly? I didn't want my apartment to look like one of those overweight guys I had seen strolling the Coney Island boardwalk in their too tight, tiny speedos. On the other hand, I didn't want to just throw it away.
I had already done a post-divorce closet cleanse with a psychotherapist-turned-stylist who helped me rid my closet of memories represented by four garbage bags worth of clothes. The blue and green patterned wrap dress I wore to our engagement party? Gone! The oversized, comfy, cotton purple v-neck t-shirt I wore when I was pregnant? Gone! So, I thought, why couldn't I do the same with my couch?
I remembered how my husband and I stood in the Macy's showroom for hours, debating the merits of this couch. We wanted a sectional since we were hoping to buy a place in the next few years and had no idea what kind of space we'd find. We figured a sectional could be split up or reconfigured to accommodate our new home. We picked a style with two end pieces, two middle pieces and a giant trapezoidal wedge piece for the middle. Then came the decision about which upholstery to get. My husband was certain that the ultrasuede material that allowed for fingerprints would drive his compulsive wife crazy, but I believed I could handle the temperamental textile. I didn't love the masculine cappuccino color we chose, but it was a compromise, and that was what marriage was all about, right? Excited about our first big purchase as a married couple, we played house in that showroom, cuddling on the couch and planning for a lifetime of weekends lazing together in "the wedge."
We had been married for three years and had rarely cuddled in the wedge, when he sat on that couch and told me he was in love with another woman. Two weeks later, he moved out. As angry as I was, I was grateful he left the couch.
But now it was time to let it go. I began taking pictures of the couch to post on Craigslist when, suddenly, my four-year-old son came bounding into the room, hopped up onto the wedge and buried himself in a pillow fort, which is one of his all-time favorite things to do. I put down the camera, crawled under the pillows, and tickled him until he cackled and begged me to stop.
As we snuggled together in the wedge, I thought about how much more I used that giant trapezoidal piece now than when I was married - my son's pillow forts, movie nights with the girls, and some interesting post-divorce dates... maybe it wasn't necessary to throw out the old just to embrace the new? Perhaps some comfortable things are worth saving, messy fingerprints and all.
Moving day came and I still hadn't made a firm decision. I wanted to see the couch in the new apartment before determining its fate. At first my small living room looked like the Coney Island boardwalk guy, but after much reconfiguring with Sarah, it all seemed to come together.
It has been several months since the move and that wedge has become the center of our cozy, little apartment. I look back and can't quite figure out what all the angst was about. I had ascribed so much meaning to that couch, but, in the end, it really didn't matter. My space is new and my outlook is bright, though I still have my moments dwelling on the heartbreak of the past. The thing is, no matter where you go or what furniture you bring with you, your brain and heart come along too. Some days are good, some not so much, but either way, I'm home.
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