Lounging on my couch, as I have for the last umpteenth number of nights, spun out in a rank stupor, now I have ghosts exhaling in my ear after dark, just when the wounds start to freshen.
Stay with me.
My dog, Maggie, and I, were locked into some serious third-party entertainment on the TV recently, dug deep into “Handmaid’s Tale” (never seen a more terrifyingly well-done show) when the secret sigh arrived.
“Under his eye” we were, owned and peeled and cozy on our 10-year old couch, this brown boat, a large sectional bought at Ocean City Job Lot for $800. Which, back then, on credit, took us well over a year to pay off. Maybe more. Good times.
Today, the couch has seen better days. I sleep on it often, too often, just crash out mid-chapter, somewhere between De Longpre Avenue and a highway outside Paris. Dead out I go, like this couch, which is hanging on by a thread with an imprint of my ass bore deep into one main cushion, a chassis for my heft. I don’t sleep nude, so the wear of the fabric is minimal and the frame is still solid. But Maggie has ripped up a cushion of her own for her withers, her hock, her belly and thighs. Good girl.
Now, the couch is just flat, lifeless, without any real purpose anymore. Unfit to act as even a basement makeout couch with beer bottles beneath it. Just done.
Yet, there we are, night after night, asking nothing more of life. This is all we need. Us, this couch and the white noise coming from Gilead.
But then, a few weeks back, as an eyeless Handmaid is about to get tased for breathing too loudly, something unseeable decided to get up from the couch we shared and let out a deep breath.
Both me and the pup whipped our necks toward the sound at the same time, looking for something that just wasn’t there. I know, nonsense, but I kid you not. It was there.
It’s not the first time, either, I suspected we lived with “others” in this house, thinking back on the sound of chair legs scraping against the floor in the rooms above me when the rest of the house is fast asleep.
Did you do that? I asked Maggie, my heart racing at a good clip.
I didn’t do that, she indicated, her eyes cursed with confusion.
Did you do that? her eyes asked back.
I didn’t do that either, I said, my eyes red as Mars.
I mean, I get it. My head gets warped sometimes, bloated and wet with warts. I hear things all the time rattling ’round my dome. But Maggie is all about clean living. Six cups of chow a day, two dumps, a couple piddles and the rest is sleeping and barking at the other dogs walking up Rt 3. But she felt it, she heard it, as I did, that fresh chunk of air shot out into the room by something other than man or beast.
There’s no explaining it. No reason to delve into who walked where, when and how many times in the past throughout this old, old house. Spirits abound, I say, and sometimes even ghosts slip up. Probably forgot to hit the mute button on whatever invisible talbot we’ll be working off in the afterlife. And the odorless emission was kind and effortless, not a violent hack of any sort. More like, “Okay, I’m done with this scene. Let’s go to the bathroom and rattle some shit around.”
It could simply have been, what some people call, that we were “seeing ghosts,” meaning flinching in expectation of something ominous and threatening about to happen. Like a quarterback does when the game is moving so fast he can’t tell the offense from the defense.
Or maybe, after a long, arduous winter, I’ve gone plum mad having logged so many hours, so many dark nights, sown into this damn sofa.
I like to think it was the sway of the couch that drew the spirit in. This majestic, beaten vessel that’s housed so many memories and naps and farts and spillages and more naps and tears and laughs over the years.
Maggie and I get it. How could anyone, living or dead, not be seduced by this old couch?