Sleeping on the Couch

Sometimes it’s nice to sleep on the couch because it feels like staying at someone else’s house. It freshens up your sleep. You can stretch out (or maybe you can’t, if the couch is short). In other words, you have to sleep differently. Sometimes this is what my sleep wants: to change.

But for me, nostalgia plays a role in couch sleeping. It reminds me of Selma, Alabama, where my dad was born in 1946. Where his cousin, and probably his best friend, Jim lived in a spooky old house deeply saturated with cigarette smoke. There were Egyptian knick-knacks, pyramid and Sphinx paperweights amongst the ashtrays. Jim was big and boisterous, chain-smoking, binge-drinking, uncouth, very racist. He bought me gifts from the Marlboro catalog–binoculars, pocket knife. I always read a book there called 13 Alabama Ghosts (and Jeffry!) which was written in Selma, and seemed all the more real for it. At night, when I slept on the couch–overstuffed tweed by the wood-framed TV–the neighborhood dogs would bark all night. It was terrifying. But somehow I felt safe, because I was finally alone after a day of feeling scared, and feeling scared alone was more comforting than being with my Selma cousins. One day was done, and here was a moment of rest all to myself. If only those damn dogs would stop barking.

Last night I slept on the couch, remembering the dogs and the island of safety amongst the strangeness and fear that was Jim’s house and Selma. I’m not sure why this memory, saturated with heavy weirdness, has become one of my most nostalgic. Sleeping on couches has something to do with the comfort of loneliness, knowing that I won’t always be in this place, that I’m a visitor here, even in my own home.

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Susan Hegvold dice:

I love the imagery of this story. Beds were always a safe haven from the terrors of the night or whatever might be lurking under the bed/couch or outside of the covers for me. Also, conjures the memories of sleeping at my grandfather’s house outside Paso Robles on his ranch. A ramshackle affair with uneven floors and very squeaky doors and thin board walls, a chimney made from the chalk stones on the property that every child that visited the place carved their name into and the fireplace made from the rocks also from the property, the coals banked and smoldering all night. Waking up there in the dead of night was sort of unsafe to the vivid imagining of a child, with all of the popping and creaking of the house and faint scurrying sounds of who knows what

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