“I’m really excited,” I told Ben. “This will be the first piece of furniture I haven’t found in a Dumpster.”

“I know the feeling, I just got to that point myself,” Ben said.

That made me like him. I hoped he would get paid on commission.

“Do you have anything specific in mind?” he asked.

“A sectional that cats can’t destroy.”

“Ah, I know how that goes. I have cats too.”

That made me like him more.

It had occurred to me only a few hours earlier that I could afford to buy something semi-significant for the first time in my life. So I had asked my heart what it desired, and its answer was a couch. A nice, new, comfy couch that I could truly call my own (we’re currently using Doug’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s old furniture set… don’t ask).

Ben showed me around and then left me to explore, and I settled into a cozy sectional. It was nice. It was more than ten times as much as the most expensive item I had ever purchased for myself (ipod shuffle in 2006 for $70), but I could afford it with money I’d saved from my second job.

I sat there imagining typing my session notes from that couch, chatting online from that couch, writing books from that couch, watching Ellen from that couch. Ben brought me a bottle of water.

I thought about how money is a strange thing. I had been spending a few evenings a week interviewing confused elderly people at hospitals, and now, because of that, I got to own something large and concrete like a couch. It didn’t seem like the two things should be related. But I was glad they were.

This was right before we left for Yellowstone, but I told Ben that I’d be back in a couple weeks for the couch.

On my way home I stopped by another furniture store, just to be sure. (I had entered this store once when I first moved here but had turned around and left immediately, before even making it to the real entrance, because I had been able to tell just by the smell of the store that I would not be able to afford anything in it).

I was greeted by Drew. Drew seemed kind of frat-boyish and like he probably didn’t own cats, so I found him less endearing than Ben, but he was friendly enough. He asked what I was looking for and then pointed me in the right direction.

The first and only couch I tested was a sectional made of goose-feathers. I sat down and didn’t get up for a long time. It was possibly the most comfortable twenty minutes of my life. It was over. That was my couch. I felt guilty about cheating on Ben, but I couldn’t help it. I knew that now there could be no other couch for me.

I tracked Drew down to ask the price. He looked it up. I winced. It was more than twice as much as Ben’s couch.

But I could make it work, right? I could sell my car and bike to work. I could stop using electricity. I could eat nothing but lettuce leaves for a while.

I told Drew I’d be back in after my vacation.

Well, we all know what ended up happening on my vacation.


Goodbye, savings. Goodbye, couch.

I will keep you in my heart as I continue interviewing old people. I hope to see you and your goose-feathers next summer.