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Wendy’s Story: The Pullout

Until I claimed it, the pullout sofa had rarely functioned as a bed. It was planted in the middle of Jen’s living room/eating area, upholstered in a beige cotton that easily picked up dirt. The sheets didn’t match. They were leftovers from sets that had once been complete. Jen handed me a sleeping pill. “Just take half and make sure you’re already in bed,” she warned. “You’ll be out like a light.” I unfolded the sofa, draped the sheets over the flimsy mattress, crawled under a pilling electric blanket, with its guts removed. I made sure I was settled, as settled as I could be given all that had happened, swallowed the drug whole and switched off the light. I waited impatiently for peace.

Just days before, I had been living it up with John in Frankfurt, Rome and Lisbon. I was not in love when he first offered me his hand, but his insistence was intoxicating, and at 37, it was a relief to be wanted. We became domestic after just a couple of dates, and then barely weeks later I uprooted from San Francisco to travel with him. Within a month, we moved to Europe. Away from family and friends, familiar neighborhoods and lingo, we were each other’s everything. John cooked me pork chops, and gave me haircuts. We shared a suitcase.

With my head propped up on the sofa cushion, I couldn’t help but see the day glow numbers on the VCR clock. 11:15, 1:45, 4:30, 6AM. Twenty-four hours earlier, John and I had flown in from Portugal to the sublet apartment we kept in San Francisco nestled high in a eucalyptus grove. I breathed in on the way up, and was reminded of a recent spa visit. There wasn’t much furniture, but the wall-to-wall white carpeting was lush, and it felt good to roll around on it. The front room had an expansive view of downtown. I would miss this place. Everything was fine when we went to bed, as far as I knew. In a few weeks, we would be off again. Back to Rome, shooting his film. Just enough time to share a handful of meals with dear friends and re-pack.

Soon after we awoke, an argument rose out of nowhere, some minutiae about receipts. It grew as large as our city view. John was talking crazy. He words didn’t make sense. Something about going on to Rome without me. “It’s over?” I huddled in between the wood console and the frame of our bedroom door. I was gasping for air. We had never fought like this. What if he meant it? Where would I go? My life in San Francisco had been closed up for years. Who would welcome me back?

John was deranged then and after, too. He never reflected on his cruelty that night or took it back. He left me drifting, without warning, in icy waters. At least I had the pullout, though it had seen better days. For the time being, we were a good fit.

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