Grant and Daniel still haven't forgiven me for my former Havertys sofa, or at least that's where the lady told me it came from when I bought it off the back of her van parked outside Kroger, but it was a nice Kroger in a nice neighborhood. Grant and Daniel both hated it, having sworn off any furniture that hadn't been picked up off the side of the road, but I keep reminding them that my couch was found on the side of the road, sort of.
"Havertys, honey," Daniel says, shaking his head. To him, Havertys is the apex of all that is evil, a pasteurized wasteland of poorly designed, overly upholstered shit-pit showrooms with all the appeal of what prison wardens would pick out to furnish their foyers. He says that if I buy a Havertys couch out of a van, I am just looking for trouble -- as opposed to his practice of breaking into abandoned houses to get furniture. I think he took his latest couch right out from under a sleeping homeless guy with dried pee on his pants mixing with other grime to make a nice tie-dye pattern.
"It's Eames-era!" he says of the sofa, shocked that I'd question his methods to retrieve it. Daniel and Grant both treasure their side-of-the-road furniture finds, knowing full well they could not afford all that vintage Knoll and Saarinen had its value not been first overlooked by an idiot who, most likely, discarded it to make room for Havertys. They are both pretty good at looking past the shells, which have been beaten up and shit on, to the treasure that is underneath.
Me, though, I personally can't pick up a cushion that looks like it absorbed the afterbirth of a hundred puppy litters. I just can't. Even if I cleaned it up afterward so you could hardly tell it sat in some boarded-up shack for 40 years, I could not sit on it without seeing what it was.
But that is my problem, because I am not seeing what it really is; a faded masterpiece ignored by everybody else. I admire that about Daniel and Grant. I had such confidence in their ability in this regard that I even started thinking it translated from furniture to actual people. Like once I totally let Daniel talk me into dating a guy whose job was fixing cars in his yard. I would have completely overlooked this person, but Daniel pushed me forward like a demented gay stage mom. "I bet underneath that jumpsuit he's a wild cat in the sack," he said.
Of course it did not work out, and I was pissed at Daniel for a long time afterward, because I tell you, gay men are the worst at setting up their straight girlfriends. They just pick people they wish they could ball themselves, and let's face it, their criteria isn't all that high. The trouble is, neither is mine, but the least my friends could do is know that about me and keep a higher caliber in mind for my sake when they're assessing my options, but no. So I swore that would be the last time I let myself be dispatched as the surrogate twat for some homo who wants to know what it's like to fuck someone he can't have.
But since then my convictions have all crumbled like stale coffee cake. I look back and see how I've punted people from my life like a burning sack of dog turds, perfectly good people, while allowing people with hateful natures to entrench themselves in my world with no end in sight. In this way I don't see how I'm that different from most people. That mechanic, by the way, has remained a good friend of mine for years. I called on him in hardship not long ago, and he was there when others were either unavailable or unwilling. Underneath that jumpsuit was a decent person, it turns out, and I am starting to think that underneath almost anything is something decent, it just depends on your inner gauge, and how far down it will let you dig.
So I don't know what makes a good person or a bad one anymore, because I have seen good people do some very bad things, and I've seen bad people surprise me with a depth of compassion I wouldn't have thought possible. I've trusted my inner gauge with mixed results. I'd say I was finished looking for trouble, but I don't think in finalities anymore. It's all an ongoing process, and it's all a forward process. Even when I was a total shell, beat up and shit on, sitting on the side of the road hoping someone would see the treasure underneath, hoping there was some, that was forward, too, because somebody did -- a lot of people did -- but I swear to God, it's never anybody you think it will be. One person it will have to be, though, is you.
Hollis Gillespie is the author of Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood, published by Harper Collins. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to Moodswing at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.
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