I used to sleep on a big red couch.
Well, it wasn’t all that big but it was red as hell; especially when the light hit it during the day time. I remember it well. It was one of those shiny couches that made noise when you moved around on it. Kinda fancy, chic, and definitely made more for sitting than sleeping, that’s for sure. But I slept on it. We all did.
Now, that’s not to say the couch didn’t get sat on every day; a lot of times by me and the crew, and a lot of times by other folks too: friends, family, rich folks, drunk folks, Black folks, all types of folks. It was a damn good couch.
It was shaped in this inviting way that made the people sitting on it want to talk to each other. Oh, and it formed a semi-circle around this matching ottoman type of piece that sat in the middle of everything. It was for your feet, but most people sat on it so they could chat.
But when everyone was gone, we slept on that too!
This big red couch was in a multi-use industrial office just south of downtown and owned by a friend and mentor of ours. We’d managed to get the key from him one way or another for a one off thing and he never quite got around to asking for it back. So we started to live there. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
That’s the thing about being home less: sometimes you fancy forgiveness over permission.
I even made love on that couch once. Well, I wouldn’t quite call it love because there wasn’t anything too special about what went down that afternoon, and it didn’t really take us all that long either (you see, I was quite uncomfortable on that squeaky red thing), but I sure did love whatever it was we did on that couch a lot more than I did sleeping on it.
Anyway, it was a one time thing that I never told the other fellas about. Besides, something tells me there are quite a few things I didn’t know about that couch. It was just that kind of couch.
So what I’m saying is that the couch was a lot of things to a lot of people. Office adornment by day, bed by night, and whatever the hell else in the mean time. And we shared it like our lives depended on it. Primarily because they did.
And so on the topic of sharing, the best part of the couch was this blanket on it. Now when I say blanket, I really mean a throw, and by throw I’m just saying it wasn’t all that big.
So yeah, it was just about big enough to stretch from your shoulders to your knees and wide enough to barely wrap under your butt on both sides. It was a one man show — point, blank, period. Keep in mind, this couch was in this industrial building I was telling you about, so we were surrounded by concrete, exposed brick, and hardwood — and it sat right by a floor-to-ceiling window that always carried a draft. If no one has told you that it’s not always warm in Dallas, let me be the first. It got chilly at night time.
You may go your whole life and not see this small of a blanket play such a huge role in someone’s life.
Naturally, the four of us took turns with the blanket and rotated it every four days. This went on for weeks: waiting until your day came, stretching it from your shoulders to your knees, tucking it under your butt just so, and getting some sleep.
Then… you’d wake up, pass it to the next man, and wait again. It was the perfect solution to our imperfect predicament.
I remember once in the late Fall, it had been pretty cold all week. I’d anxiously awaited my blanket day and when it finally came, it must’ve been a Thursday, it was warm as hell outdoors! I woke up the next morning with it kicked all over the floor.
It was just my luck to have a warm night on my turn to use the blanket, I thought. But fair is fair, and that was my day.
Well, as fate would have it, the very next night was chilly again and I was three days in the hole; freezing my ass off. I guess Mother Nature really does have a mind of her own. “It be like that sometimes.”, the dude with the blanket told me.
I shrugged it off and shivered my butt to sleep.
And that’s something about being home less in Dallas that maybe isn’t specific to being home less or being in Dallas. Sharing is caring, bruh, and fair is fair. Whether it’s a friend, a business partner, or just another person that inhabits your situation (this crew of mine fell into all three categories), mutual respect and dependability go a long way in life.
And you know what? So does appreciation. Because no matter the cards we’re dealt, knowing how not to take the little things (like tiny blankets) for granted is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order for it to stay strong.
Dependability. Appreciation. Patience. These are the virtues we were being force fed — in a cold, stolen office sleeping on a not-so-big red couch with three other grown men. They are virtues that we wound up having to learn the hard way; virtues that I won’t ever have to learn again.
Eventually we were kicked out of that office (and off of that couch). Nothing lasts forever I’m told, and it was time to go and be home less somewhere else in Dallas. I’ll tell you more about that another time.
For now, just know that the big red couch was more than just a big red couch. It was a microcosm of the larger landscape of life; a not-so-gentle reminder that no man is an island, and that on this island everybody has a little light under the sun. Can you dig that?
I’ll leave you with something my barber always tells me:
One day, coffee
Next day, tea.
Today it’s you,
Tomorrow it’s me.
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