There is nothing so terrible that a wedding planner can’t make something of it.
My boys found a couch by the side of the road that was neither falling apart nor inundated with animal hair, and so they carried it home. We don’t have room for it, but never mind; scrounging and scavenging are family traditions. Their old man snagged the two flatscreen TVs they use for video games from the side of the road. (The larger of them had been put out with a neighbor’s trash; she later told me that her daughter said it was broken. The boys think that meant the girl had lost the remote.) Ditto the long white bureau upon which those TVs rest. Ditto, for that matter, the sturdy old IKEA futon frame that serves as their gaming couch. (Found that one free on Craigslist to anyone who would come and cart it away.)
This new couch, pale green with a gracefully curving back, sat in the front yard for a couple of days; my daughter liked to stretch out on it and sun herself as she strummed her ukulele. Then the rains came, and it got crammed onto the front stoop. It can’t stay there. For starters, it blocks three-quarters of the front door. More importantly: for all my scavenging and trash-picking, there remain some things that simply aren’t done. Placing an indoor couch in an outdoor setting, especially one as public as a home’s entrance, is one of them. It goes back to growing up in a depressed town where sagging front porches collected all manner of thing: busted appliances, ruined furniture, and boxes and boxes of detritus, moldering in the upstate New York damp.
My pair of pepper trees.
So, we’ll have to do something with it — someday. In the meantime, the wife likes to lounge on it when she enjoys her postprandial cigarette. American Spirit, sky blue, one a day so she can tell herself she’s not really a smoker. Except for the times when she has half a cigarette more, and tucks the unsmoked portion behind the statue of Saint Joseph in the stoop’s corner. The next night, there it is, waiting for her. Last night, I sat with her, drinking while she smoked, taking in the silhouettes of the neighborhood trees. It was a good moment for taking stock of the year’s slow start — slow in no small part due to a bout of covid that hit me in late December. A final f-you from 2020, and a reminder that the virus, like the rest of nature, doesn’t care about your calendar. Happy New Year, except it’s the same old you with the same old sickness.
It hardly seems worth writing about, given how devastating it’s been for so many, and how mild it proved for me. I lost my sense of taste for four days or so, which upset me much more than it should have. I had trouble with both sleeping and thinking, which meant that I spent New Year’s Eve watching one-two-three-four Sean Connery Bond films back to back for free on YouTube. The experience made for an easy New Year’s resolution: enough with the old Bond films. At a certain point, the nostalgia starts to curdle.
(Speaking of dogs returning to their vomit and fools reverting to their folly: I quit Twitter as well, just a few days ahead of the President. I had grown too fond of watching people tweak their fellow Americans for their sad and sundry hypocrisies. I did, however, allow myself a rueful chuckle when I read a January 5 news item about the Otay Mesa arrest of a 43-year-old Mexican national who had been deported years earlier after sexually assaulting two children. A genuine Bad Hombre, just the sort of person Trump was going to keep out with his wall. That unfinished work seems like a fitting monument.)
Covid left me fagged out and foggy for longer than I thought it would, but it’s not like I had to go to the hospital to get help breathing. It’s not even like I had to plan a wedding, because oh yes, there is love in the time of covid, social distancing or no. The wife spent last Saturday morning packing her excellent cole slaw into hundreds of clear plastic boxes for a friend’s slantwise wedding reception. Guests were provided with a to-go lunch, cole slaw included, and if they decided to stay in the private, parklike setting to eat it, that was their call. Another friend’s reception provided wristbands: you wore green if you were okay with hugs and handshakes, yellow if you were okay with talking but not touching, and red if you were just “gonna wave from six feet.” I didn’t attend, but I heard that some people wore both green and red — because it’s a wedding, and there are probably going to be a few people you’d just as soon avoid like the proverbial plague.
Covid is a stark reminder that in the midst of life we are in death — and vice versa. Which is probably why I started noticing the dead pepper tree on one side of my long driveway, and the way its witch-hair tangle of twigs was intertwined with the still-very-much-alive pepper tree on the driveway’s other side. Neither one belongs to me, so there’s nothing to do but pass beneath the bifurcated canopy and start in on a sonnet.
A pair of pepper trees, one live, one dead
Bestride the drive that leads to where I dwell
Their branches twine and mingle overhead
Until just which is which, I cannot tell…
I’ll work on it. In the meantime, I’ve got to do something with this couch — starting with getting up off of it.