The plaid of his pants is not the same plaid as the plaid of the couch. Old man stands like an ageless tree, solid as a father, a grandfather, a great-granddad. Neat clothes, neat hair, polished shoes. Unruffled like he was beamed down from spacecraft. A small smile. Returning from the corner store I stop and see him across the street. He waits for me to recognize him so I wonder does he look familiar or is it only that I want him to. Plaid couch at the side of the road is sunken, confused, no choice but to accept its new homelessness. It’s all over now: watching reruns, supporting awkward sex, inhaling reefer and Chinese takeaway. It’s all soaked into its fabric skin, its body tissue of yellow sponge. It waits for a garbage truck to come along and put it out of its misery. Its misery of memories. The man, the small smile, moves behind the couch, looks straight at me. He does not sit, he makes no sound. As if the couch is invisible. He waits for me to recognize him and so I wonder if I do or even if I should. There is no hurry. The couch fits exactly on unmown grass between sidewalk and curb. Boxy white building behind. Gridwork windows. Black telephone wires stretch across the top of this photographic frame. The man is centered in reassuring symmetry. Still the smile. I peel cellophane off a new pack of DuMauriers, pull out the first dart with my teeth. Flick open my Zippo. Snap fingers. Flint sparks the wick. Inhale. I take the new bottle of lighter fluid from my back pocket and cross the street. Squeeze my name onto the cushions over and over in fine spray until the fluid runs out—p e n n y—in big loopy letters like a movie star autograph, like happy birthday icing, like it’s the best word in the world. Toss the lit Zippo on top, letters leap up in bright flames. Couch burns to the ground. Ashes soak into the earth like hot snow and disappear. No trace. Memories erased. A small smile remains. Old man. Polished shoes. Plaid pants. Of course I recognize you, I tell him. It’s you who no longer recognizes me.
Penny Sarmada is from Ontario. New and upcoming in Versification, Sledgehammer, Selcouth Station, Pink Plastic House, Bullshit Lit.