Marley Simmons Abril
One soft chair remains in the house. It is mustard colored velvet, with high arms that the cat has scratched down to staples and cardboard, two things I didn’t know chairs could be made out of. The stuffing falls out and drifts around my bedroom floor like feathers. Sometimes I consider patching these bald spots, but mostly I tolerate it because it is better than the alternative, which is that the cat pees on it. Every other soft thing has been peed on. Other rooms of the house have grown bare and hard, monastic in their resistance to comfort. Goodbye kitchen rug. Goodbye dog bed. Goodbye stitched pillow from India. Goodbye cloth grocery sack, charmingly printed with antique bicycles and left on the floor overnight. Goodbye red bathmat: you always fit this tiny room so perfect. The cat has peed on all of them, and they have all, one by one, been removed from the house. This last chair I guard, I hold onto tightly.
The futon went to the dump this morning. Goodbye couch. Through the windshield, heavy rain creased the highway in front of us. We talked about shifting political allegiances. “Innovate or die,” he announced, and wiped with his sleeve at the side window. Or maybe we were talking about AC technology. “That should be your new motto. I’ll make you a patch and sew it on the back of your jacket.”
I laughed. “That makes me sound like the founder of a biotech start-up.”
The futon frame bends empty in front of the coffee table. The cat climbs it like a ladder. Without the mattress, it is surprisingly close to the ground, and I can see fur and dog toys and a spider through the slats. The pillows are stacked on a side table. I wonder when I’ll be able to afford to replace it, and then how long it will last. The cat swats at a dust mote. She sits behind the frame glaring like a prisoner before she bolts upstairs again. I calculate the years until her earliest possible natural death.
I started my period in the night, and slip upstairs to pull up my spotty sheets for the laundry. The cat leans her claws into the chair. Every soft thing. I am constantly stripping and washing and replacing. Every soft thing has been pissed on, bled on, fucked on, or I spilled wine on it, or used it to dry my dripping bathroom ceiling, or to wipe mud from the dog’s paws, or the linoleum by the back door. When my washing machine breaks, I will be done. I will admit defeat, and lay myself down on the bare floor to rest.
I have already cried, so I decide to celebrate my unwilling minimalism. It’s not too early to finish last night’s wine. Couches are for comfortable people, soft people. Innovate or die.
I wonder sometimes what it costs me to hold on to this. I think about potentialities and opportunity costs and alternate universes. In my last chair, I stare at the wall and wonder where I could be if I wasn’t so firmly here. Couches are for people with homes and families and stability, things I think I want very badly. I wonder if a less-cluttered life would be easier, or just burdened in different ways. I wonder what might drift into my palm if I wasn’t gripping so tight.
Marley Simmons Abril is completing her MFA at Western Washington University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Steel Toe Review, Menacing Hedge, Flash Flash Click, Jeopardy Magazine, and others. Her story "Good Neighbors" was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She is Assisstant Managing Editor at Bellingham Review.