Sunday, January 23, 2011

The old mattress

Today the sleek new sofa came.  This arrival initiated a cavalcade of change around the apartment.  To make room for the new sofa, we are converting the extra bedroom into a sitting room, so we had to move the old sofa -- the ancient sofa, the sixty year-old sofa that my grandparents had originally brought to Charlottesville, that I had brought to Charlottesville fifty years later, that I had brought to New York after that, that my daughter had scratched and tumbled upon -- into the extra bedroom.  I spent the morning dismantling the old bed in the extra bedroom, the first bed I had owned as an adult.  We put the deconstructed bed frame in the baby's closet but the mattress had to go to the garbage.  She was good, but she was old.

Every time I open the door to our elevator I wonder if a wall of water will come tumbling out.  This time, as always, no flood emerged.  I wheedled the mattress into the elevator and began the journey down to the basement.  The mattress was abutted against the wall behind me.  I felt a rush of affection and nostalgia.  I leaned back into the mattress one last time, thinking of everyone who had slept on it.  I prayed the elevator would not stop on its way to my destination so that no one would see me trying to stand and lie down on the vertical mattress.  The mattress was firm and familiar against my back.  I thanked it.

In the basement I dragged the mattress through the hallway and out into the alley.  I knew as soon as I brought the mattress into the cold unfamiliar outdoors that its side would become etched with ice and salt.  I shoved the mattress along the cold pavement until it came to rest against the building.  Now it was cold and wet and unusable.  The old bed was now stacked in the closet.  The new sofa was sleek and firm and beautiful.  The new sitting room was warm and inviting.  There was no space for regret.

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