My daughter would like her own couch, in her bedroom. She’s seven.
A couch is expensive! I love couches, I really do, but they cost money, and to get a good one involves a financial and material commitment to furniture. I’ve hauled couches from one house to another. Not easy.
We have a couch I scored off Craigslist. A twenty-something put it up for sale, and when I went to pick it up, she and her friends milled around their apartment off Belmont Street. They kept looking at each other with glances I couldn’t interpret–definitely awkward, possibly guilty? Those furtive glances may have said, You’re really going to sell your mom’s couch? Or maybe they said, We didn’t stash pot under the cushions, did we? Maybe they only meant, God, this lady! I tried to ask all the right questions.
Our second couch was salvaged, then recovered. Older frames are better made than moderately-priced newer versions of the same. But even to recover a couch takes an investment, and we just can’t buy another couch, I tell my daughter.
After a heart-to-heart about lack, quality, money and delayed gratification, she and I take a walk to the park, and pass at least three couches out at the curb. There’s one in an alley. It’s hard to believe a couch ever cost money, to see the way they’re trashed, dumped, offered up, always for free. They litter the streets like cigarette butts, only way bigger.
Couches grow in the compost fallen from Portland’s recycling bins. They wander off from their owners, marked as “illegally dumped,” like stray dogs. They line the way to the playground, and just miss the bus stops where they’d actually be useful.
Who wants to sit on a couch like this?
A couch is expensive, and a couch is garbage, and it starts to feel like a demarcation, the rich/poor split. You can find a couch in Portland. You can find a mattress on the street. You can find a television, a stereo, a chest of drawers. I used to find a lot of typewriters at the curb, but that particular crop seems thin now that hipsters have discovered the app-free tool. Still we have a wealth of material goods, all for free, all the time. But chances are, you don’t want the ones strewn along the walkways.
We’re a city compulsive about never throwing anything away.