Lydia Pitts, Esq., prominent board member of a child welfare charity with a not so easy to remember acronym — “SCFS”– donated a pair of dove-white sofas with pull-out beds to the organization that she headed.
As an employee of SCFS, or “Steinway Child and Family Services”, I was required to write acknowledgment letters to VIP donors like Lydia who sought tax relief for their in-kind contributions. My boss, CEO, President and hot-tempered, Mary D. Redd, singed such letters on fancy stationery. The keys on the computer from behind which I worked as a word slave were pushed at near-record speed as I carefully crafted sentences that could easily fool any IRS auditor–
“On behalf of disenfranchised of Queens, SCFS thanks you for the generous contribution of two sofa beds with an estimated value of $3,000.”
Mary D. Redd had no idea what she would tell her best friend, Lydia Pitts, face-to-face when and if an inquiry arose during an upcoming board meeting, as to where and to whom those couches were actually donated. Board members at Steinway were the pre-cursers to men like Bill Gates—philanthropists and geniuses who made sure their care for others was not abused. Mary needed to find a home where the precious couches would be used as they should be; in a tranquil home where the sure-to-be antiques would not be torn to shreds and bounced upon by dirty little Mexican kids with greasy fingers and hair that are all so common in the borough of Queens.
What lucky family in Queens would inherit the stainless white sofas that Pitts purchased from Jennifer Convertible years before when she had first graduated from law school? Where to put them?
“They sure would look nice in your new Harlem apartment,” my boss suggested as we sealed Lydia Pitts’s in-kind letter.
“I would be delighted to have them,” I said before even seeing the sofas that had gone onto survive under my ass for almost a decade. “Is it possible for the maintenance staff to deliver them to my place in Brooklyn? I just moved to Brooklyn with my lover, Shawn.” I confessed to my boss. She seemed skeptical– was it true– was I really going to resign and move to Los Angeles? Rumors in the office had my story as such. By accepting the sofas, I concluded, perhaps Mary may not believe all that she was hearing around the office. Why would I accept such stuffed gems if I were leaving New York City and resigning soon? I took the sofas to keep the bitch off my back at work. That was all.
“Sure, Steinway staff will deliver them to you,” evil-eyed Mary Redd noted as she called Vice President, Lewis E. Duckett into her office. Duckett had just returned from a two hour lunch with a Latino lad who had been hired by SCFS to serve as some sort of secretarial maintenance bookkeeper whose salary was paid for, like my own, out of a city-approved, non-profit budget lines that the Vice President of Finance had re-written to suit justification demands on lengthy city contracts.
“Lewis, I need for the men to be at Lydia Pitts’s condo in Harlem this Saturday to pick-up those heavy couches. Send all four of them. Charles is going to take the damned things,” Ms. Redd snipped as she looked at me lovingly, hoping the $3,000 offering would keep me at her right side a while longer, at least through her first campaign for city council. Redd needed me. She had confessed that fact verbally many times before during informal supervisions, but now I saw her love for me in her light green eyes that I could have sworn were undressing me.
My lover died days after the sofas arrived. After he was gone, flown back to LA at my expense inside a wooden sofa with a lid, I was left alone to cry on the two plush Pitts giant pin cushions. From one to the next I crawled, barely able to get up for hours on end– tossing, turning, crying, angry not only at God, but at myself for taking the sofas that obviously held some sort of curse that the angry Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters, Redd and Pitts, had put on me for threatening to leave that God awful organization, SCFS.
Did a social service curse cause Shawn’s demise? One may never know, but just as he had lost his mind due to an exploding liver, my lover, in a state of psychosis triggered from hepatitis C and an overdose of Tylenol, inadvertently pissed on Lydia Pitts’s white sofas, as if in some sort of post life emotional state of vengeance. It seemed, as I looked down upon those spoiled couches, that Shawn was leaving his mark to show those bitches who I really belonged to. Was he claiming his territory?
Shawn must have known he was dying– how dumb those two big heavy couches must have seemed to him when we were supposedly getting out of New York any day now. It is better to die in LA than in New York.
I found him hours after his manic rage had erupted inside a mind lost behind yellowish eyes that seemed too frightened to shed tears. Even though he was already gone– brain dead in a sense, he still had to piss and was up walking around inside the apartment pissing on everything.
Perhaps to a mind with sensations not yet dead, the couches looked like giant urinals. I don’t know why he pissed on them. His dark brown urine seeped down into the mattresses folded beneath thick cushions. The heat of a damp warm May evening combined with the vapors of Shawn’s toxic waste, creating a chilling aura of impending death throughout the place. The apartment and the sofas were more noxious that one can imagine. It’s funny that I kept them all these years. I’ve wasted so much Febreze. Like a used pinata, the pearly white sofas were ruined, beaten by a big black dick swinging and spraying like a water sword straight into hell, or perhaps, through a purgatory created specifically for Shawn; where every man is gay, or at least willing to experiment with water sports.
“Why did you accept those sofas from your boss? You said we are leaving for Los Angeles in a few months.”
“To have something to sit on and to make love upon until we go,” I reassured.
Throwing out the last of the great white sofa beds this Friday was not easy. For all these years, despite the terrible spots all over them, I kept those couches because I was too weak to carry them out to the street. I barely moved them to sweep under them. Touching them made me sick– thinking of Mary Redd, not necessarily the piss.
My new lover Bradley, who moved in here with these couches just days after I put Shawn into a grave out in LA, didn’t mind the spots on the couches. As a matter of fact, Bradley turned Pitts’s pits and Shawn’s heavenly urinals into a new shade of off-white—that tell-tell sign of marijuana smoke in a home- the unobtrusive brown tan that seeps deep into the fibers, . The cushions have been torn by so many cats. We had no choice but to throw them out, despite the tax write-off that once had been granted to them.
We were afraid they were too heavy for New York City sanitation workers to lift into their trucks. We took out the love seat first– two Fridays ago. Yesterday, I wanted the second couch gone, but Bradley insisted–
“My arm has been hurting all week from moving that fucking couch last week. Take it out if you must, but I cannot help right now.”
It was an easy task to complete on my own. I simply slid it outside– not worrying about ruining what had so long ago been ruined. Down the cement stairs of this brownstone it tumbled, right to the curb, stopping inches in front of a Ford Mustang. I slammed the door, came inside and looked at that battered yellow couch through a window that I can now easily stand in front of.
The rain that fell in New York City yesterday seemed to cleanse all the sin from that old, old sofa. I watched as my tears rinse away, down Kosciusko Street, into a drain on Nostrand Avenue, through city septic canals, into the raging Hudson River, on to the sea– that same ocean that we swam together in, back when I was rich, and there was nothing to cry for.