Our first apartment was on a little street in Etobicoke called Callowhill drive. It was a sweet street that shared two high-rise apartments and a bunch of houses. Where kids learned to ride their bikes on the quiet laneways. Neighbours were a nice mix of new immigrants, young families and Grandparents. It was within walking distance to the library, a school and a grocery store. A great little community that we were thankful to have a chance to put roots in.
A year before this I had inherited my parents’ house after they both passed away. I was young, stupid and got some bad advice from people that I thought had my best interest at heart. I managed to sell it to a friend of the family before the bank could take it but until the sale was finalized we were temporarily houseless… and it gave us quite a bit of insecurity emotionally.
Before I sold the house, David and I let a friend James moved in with us. He had a pretty screwed-up life and David and I often felt the need to wrap him in bubble wrap and protect him. So, when we applied for Callowhill we promised James he would come with us. It would be complicated and cramped but you don’t turn your back on family.
David and James met in art class and we all knew each other from the same high school.
It was difficult to define what exactly we were to each other. Sibling, friend, weird pseudo-kid? It was a weird few years that no one planned for anyone involved, I was never sure if I would do it again, but glad I did it.
A place where we could put down roots, have a home base and flourish into something.
It was ours in all its wall-of-windows, off-white walls and blonde fake wood floors glory.
“Furniture first. Then jungle.” He was right. He was always right.
This was an expense that could last us decades — this wasn’t us playing make-belief anymore. This was reality.
Our salesman, a clean-shaven West Indian man at a Sears Canada in Etobicoke. He waved at the furniture and encouraged us to test things out “take your time! Relax. Sit on the furniture. You will sit on it at home. Sit on it before you buy it. Live on it for a few minutes, put your feet up. It is an expensive purchase it needs to do more than look pretty.” I peeled my eyes off of his floral tie to look around at all the adult furniture. I am an adult. About to make a very real adult decision. I need an adult. I am an adult. Is this the thing that launches us into “real adulthood?” not a lease or the talk of marriage, but furniture?
I walked over to an overstuffed white armchair that looked like someone drew a map on it and sat down immediately.
“For your reading nook?” David asked, There was something about the chair I loved but knew at that moment it wasn’t practical.
Real adults need practical pieces.
“I don’t have a reading nook.” Technically, our entire apartment was my reading nook. But, it seemed wrong calling our 680 Square Foot apartment a nook.
“When we are no longer broke and you become the best selling author. And we buy the house with the wrap-around porch with the big maple tree in the front yard for the tire swing for the kids. You can have a reading nook and that chair,” he believed in that writing dream more than I did some days.
We continued to walk around furniture sets that were not any of our styles. We made comments that sounded like Goldilocks and the three bears “too hard.” “too soft” “too deep.”
The ‘too deep couch’ David sat on and immediately slid back and in causing his short legs to not be able to push himself up. He reached for my hand and instead of letting me pull him up he pulled me down for a kiss like in those dumb rom-coms he liked. I should’ve seen it coming, I rolled my eyes and left him there hearing “noo, wait, I’m really stuck…”
More choices. “Too yellow.”
“That’s what she said.”
“I assure you she didn’t. – what about this one?”
“What’s wrong with a black leather couch? It is easy to clean.”
“I am fat and we sweat. No leather.”
I knew that there was no pressure to buy today and we could talk about it with promises to come back. We didn’t have to make a decision right there and then. I knew we both wanted timeless. What did that mean? I didn’t I want something that read 40-year-old suburban mom with her life together. Although, I admit to not liking a purple paisley love seat as much as I thought I would.
David wanted sleek and traditional looking. Something that would grow with us, “Sales dude is right, this shit is expensive. I want something that will look great still 20 years from now.” But, he didn’t say no right away to a tiffany blue chair I pointed at to see his reaction – maybe we were both confused.
He pulled me down onto a charcoal grey tweed-looking one. I would admit that it felt “right.” We sat in the faux living room space with his arm around me like we did at home and I could see it. See us. “Yeah, man! What do you think? The cat on the back of the sofa sleeping..” he had an excited gleam in his eye as he added a house, a golden retriever, a cat, and two kids to the list. We didn’t even have a cat yet. I liked this image for us, it wasn’t horrible to still run make-believe scenarios.
I could see pizza Night and me reading a book in our current little apartment on this couch. The salesman told David to test it out for nap time. I looked through the little book of colours and patterns that came with it. I lost my ability to breathe for a split second when I saw the price. We have been spanked back into reality and continued looking.
It was the red that caught my eye, the size would be perfect for guests and would fit against the wall we needed it to. David liked that it came as a set and that there was a little convertible option. He also liked the colour. Goldilocks would say “this was just right.” David laid down on it and by the sound he made it was perfect for naps, “this one.” We bought more furniture, it was less exciting. We didn’t buy a dining room set because we thought it would be a great excuse to not have to hosts dinners or luncheons. so maybe, we didn’t grow up as much as we would like to think we did. The furniture was delivered and set up a few days later. David didn’t waste any time sinking down into it and pulling me down with him.
It really was just right. We lived on that couch. It is where I lost my keys and wallet as things would slip out of my pocket and go into that dark void. Pasta with Law and Order. Jerk Chicken with Criminal Minds. Packing Avon Orders. On that couch. Bouts of insomnia spent.
Supported us through Microsoft Access and Photoshop tutorials. We snuck naps on that couch curled up in impossible loops around each other. Allowing ourselves to feel safe in our own little pocket universe. It is where I slept on the chaise for two weeks after I dislocated my knee. It is where I experimented with cups of coffee and novel ideas. 2 am movie marathons and “oohh the sun is up” video game battles. It was where we fought and made up, Where we planned. Goaled. Day Dreamed and Fantasized.
Where we made shit happen. Laughter. Crying. Mourned. Wedding plans. Gilmore Girls. Holding hands as we did our own thing. Cleaned cat fur off this couch. Questioned everything. Even each other. Broke up and reconciled. Made phone calls and made love on it.
Sometimes it would seem like a member of the family in a weird way, forget asking “if these walls could talk?” What about the couch? The number of possibilities that existed in the universe that was our red couch. ***
About a year later, David and I got married! Like married-married! we bought a kitten, (okay *I* bought a kitten), James moved out (not because of us getting married, or the kitten.)
So, we now had access to the entire apartment and 75/% of it. We decided to make it look like a proper apartment, it was easy enough. Bedroom stuff in the bedroom gave us more space, and I was able to create an “office space.”
Still, no reading nook, although should buy a third bookshelf.
Still no dining room table.
Our red sofa and love seat were still with us.
Our Callowhill universe was ever-growing, expanding, and changing.
In that year’s time frame, David was diagnosed with asthma.
I waited for ambulances on that couch. Listened to his struggle to breathe on that couch. He was in the hospital for two weeks while they did other random tests and I couldn’t sleep in our Queen bed without him. Okay, I didn’t do a lot of sleeping, but I did a lot of attempts of sleep on that couch. The night he came home I needed to know that he was okay that he was breathing. I sat on the bed and watched his chest rise and fall. I had an old-fashioned cordless phone in my lap ready to call 911 if any little change happened.
“Remember the first time you woke up from a nap and you caught me staring at you because I thought you were cute? And you were like ‘ew no stop?”
His eyes popped open and he turned his head to look at my face and it to me, “You were right. It’s fucking creepy.”
“It isn’t creepy when I do it. I’m cute.”
“Creepy. With your big brown eyes, it’s like I married to fucking Annabelle.”
“I need to know you are breathing.”
“Not any less creepy.”
My fingers find the pulse point in his wrist and I remember my brain panicking that I couldn’t find it. Despite him talking to me. I told him. “Donna-baby, if I am speaking to you I have a pulse. I promise. Look? See Breathing.” “I need to” I *still* don’t know how I would’ve finished that sentence.
He got out of bed and pulled me and the ugly shit-brown comforter with him to the living room. He led me to the couch and sat so his back was against the arm and I sat between his legs so my back was against his chest. I could feel him breathe against me. At one moment our breathing synced and I was reassured once again on that couch. ***
Two years after that, David and I needed to move. We found a cute basement apartment with access to a backyard.
We moved April 1st in the middle of a torrential downpour. Everything got completely soaked including our furniture. It dried naturally and we didn’t think of potential damage until about six months after we moved. Our landlord, Mike, wanted to talk to us about “a smell and we need to figure out what it is.” Neither of us could figure it out, until, “wait, remember when you moved in all that rain? Oh, guys…”
We needed to get rid of it. We were kind of scared that Mike was going to try and evict us if we didn’t. The first piece of adult furniture we bought together. Our Anchor. We couldn’t keep a couch and I wanted plants?!
David was embarrassed and scared we were going to be houseless again with nowhere to go if Mike kicked us out. Without consulting me he solved the problem and went to one of those rent-to-own stores to replace it. Denim Blue. It wasn’t ugly. Was more traditional than the piece we needed to change out, but it didn’t feel like ours.
It didn’t feel like home.
They came in a few days to bring the new stuff and we tipped the guys bringing in the new furniture to bring the old stuff up. Mike was impressed, that we moved on to solving the problem so quickly when we figured it out. At that moment all I could see was our past sitting on the curb and our planned out futures changing with it. Apart of me wanted to bring it back inside. I could feel changes coming in the wind and I couldn’t pinpoint them.
About 8 or 10 months after that, I lost him, he died in his sleep.
He has been gone 3 years 2 months and 20 days.
Every so often I will walk through a department store and see the same red couch on sale and I think of him. I can see him clear as day sitting on it. He has a play station controller in one hand and a bowl of cheesies on the coffee table. The same mischievous little boy’s grin is plastered on his face. We are planning our future or talking about big adult things we wanted to get done. Everything is so real. For a clear second, I can see myself back in our first apartment on Callowhill. We are dreaming of our future and all the possibilities, all on that little red couch.