There are some things in life we all enjoy: the beauty of an ocean sunset, a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer's afternoon, the warm glow of a roaring fire with a mug of steaming cocoa at Christmastime. But, while all of those things are nice, they don't hold a candle to the joys of a big, comfy four-piece sectional. Or a soft-cover three-seater with extra-wide arm pads. Sure, everybody likes lying on couches, but in my case, I guess you could say it's been a lifelong love of mine.
I was thinking about this just the other day. As I lay on my couch, staring up at the ceiling cracks, the afternoon sun making beautiful sunbeams in the smoky haze rising from the overflowing ashtray on my coffee table, I realized that lying on couches has always been a profound part of who I am. Though I'd long sensed this, it hit me full-force at that moment, just before I nodded off for a nap.
Even as a small child, that love was there. How vividly I recall my parents' old couch. To a small boy, it was as perfect as a couch could be. It was lime green and covered with an embossed pattern of stitched leaves and Fleurs de Lis in darker green, with a stiff fringe running along the bottom. When I was four, I could actually fit under that couch–yes, all the way underneath! I spent many a blissful hour lying under it, my face pressed into the deep-pile shag carpet below, lost in some solitary game of hide-and-seek.
Ah, but those hours spent squeezed under the couch were nothing compared to the ones I spent on top. I loved burying my face in the space between the cushions. The scratchy synthetic poly-blend upholstery bothered me not the slightest bit. The couch was my playroom, my playmate, my confidant. When I needed a quick place to store a stolen cookie, the cushions' soft, pillowy insides were my trusted hiding spot. How I can still remember lying on my back with my head hanging over the side, imagining I lived in an upside-down world. Then, after several minutes of reverie, I would drift off to sleep. And how wonderful it felt to wake up to discover the cushion, along with the whole right side of my face, soaked in boyhood drool.
When I was 9, my family moved to Arizona, and the old green couch was replaced. I was sad to see it go, but my sorrow was short-lived. Soon, the furniture men delivered an L-shaped, white-corduroy couch that took up nearly two full walls of our new home's basement rec room. What joy! Because it was white, Mom made us take off our shoes before lying on it, but this was a small price to pay for such luxury.
What an exhilarating multitude of cushions! What forts we made of them! What adventures my siblings and I had climbing its length and breadth! But, still, no adventure was quite as thrilling as the simple act of reclining on it, feeling its womblike softness envelop me while I read my Thor comic books or watched Battle Of The Planets.
Many times was I chided for monopolizing the couch. When necessary, I moved my feet to make room for others, but I did so reluctantly: Sitting on a couch, however comfy, is nothing like lying fully stretched. Do not the Chinese have a proverb, "Better to sit than to stand, better to lie than to sit"? Truly, a couch's truest purpose lies in the lying.
As time went on, many couches touched my life. In ninth grade, it was on my friend Brian's couch that I played Atari 2600 games into the wee hours. In high school, long after the L-shaped couch had been consigned to oblivion, a brown plaid couch was where I read Catcher In The Rye, watched history unfold with the first-ever MTV Video Awards, and stayed up until 2 a.m. furtively masturbating to brief nudity and strong sexual content on HBO. And, not long after, it was on my girlfriend Angela's couch where I first became a man.
As my teenage years wore on, more couches came into my life. My freshman year at Ohio State, countless Saturday nights were spent drunkenly consuming pizza after pizza on couches stained with generations of beer and God knows what else. And, though the old couch in my dormitory's commons area was stinky, battered, and broken beyond repair, I loved it still.
After college, there was such a succession of apartments, I dizzy to think of them all. But wherever I lived, the couch was the place where it all went down. The couch, always the couch. I watched the entire Gulf War on CNN from my couch. At my old job at the community radio station, the couch that had been in the back room since 1965 doubled many late nights as my bed. Each of these couches, every one, holds a special place in my heart.
Some say the couch is the one true symbol of my generation. In fact, one of the greatest moments of my life happened on a couch. I was 26 and living with four buddies in a run-down student-ghetto apartment. It was 2:30 a.m. and I was watching TV, as I did every night. Suddenly, the late-night stillness was broken by a loud bang as my roommates burst drunkenly through the door. It was bar time and, without a word, they hoisted me up to a standing position and hauled the couch away. Before I had a chance to protest, they brought in a second couch, that they'd found on the street on the way home. Pausing only momentarily to sweep aside the accumulated debris from the floor where our old couch had been, they dropped their newest find in the same spot, plopped me down on it, and headed to the kitchen to raid the fridge, leaving me exactly as they'd found me. What rapture!
I'm older now, but my love of couch-lying goes on. I have a PlayStation 2/DVD player and a great surround-sound speaker system. I have not one but two couches, one for guests and one exclusively for me. It's not the greatest couch in the world, a foot too short and possessing so many busted springs that I had to stick a piece of plywood under the cushions. But it's good enough for me.
I don't think I'll ever stop lying on couches. Last month, when I visited my friend Jimmy in Minneapolis, I amazed him and his roommates by spending 36 straight hours on their couch, enjoying conversations with various people as they moved in and out of the room. They said I was a true "hall-of-famer." I hope I can live up to that honor. Years from now, when death arrives, as it does for all men, I hope I go comfortably and willingly into that great darkness, dying as I have lived, entering death's silent embrace with arms–and feet–outstretched.