By JENNY BARDWELL
I remember the couch more than I remember her. It was worn and frayed, the upholstery a web of snapping threads and stained fabric. There were deep gashes in the sagging pillows, exposing the thin, brittle frame. The wooden bones were rotting along with the collapsed stuffing it bled. I remember wondering how the couch could have withered so much before it was finally discarded. Who would keep that something that worthless?
I don’t remember her very well. She was a crazy lady who had sat outside my house for two days before the police succeeded in prying her from her wrinkled perch. Her hair color, clothes, and features have all weathered from my mind. But I still remember the feeling that burst from her eyes. A form of desperate, violent, curiosity had frothed behind those twitching glass surfaces. It was almost as if she were waiting for me to do something extraordinary.
She became a phantom, following me around. I would look up into the stands at one of my games and see her, the grey couch and the blurry figure with the starving eyes. She was huddled in the corner of movie theatres, math classes, Super Bowl parties, almost anywhere I ran, as if demanding my attention, demanding that I earn her approval. The weirdest thing is that I almost wanted to prove myself to the shadow on the sideline. The crumpled old lady’s mind had changed from a bland sludge to a gleaming basin of wisdom in my thoughts, and I didn’t know why.
But her image had faded, and I had not thought about her in months when I returned home that day to find her sitting, actually sitting, on my porch.