For Broken People

I’m walking along, slouching with my hands in my sweatshirt pocket, when I see the couch. It’s a nubby brown couch just off the sidewalk, in the front of someone’s yard. For Broken People, the sign on it reads. I sink into a cushion and stare out at the road.

A few minutes later, a man walks by. He holds himself tall with perfect posture, but I can see the red bags under his eyes and the wet spot on his sleeve. I swing my legs to the side so he can read the sign on the front of the couch. He looks at the couch, swings his head forward, and, seeming to lack the impetus needed to walk, resigns, lets his shoulders sag, and sits on the other end of the couch.

We don’t make eye contact, but we don’t really need to. There is no tension between us, just the mutual understanding of needing a seat, somehow both in the needing-a-seat-on-a-crowded-subway sense in which you don’t question the people next to you and the way you don’t question the person in line next to you in a hospital.

A woman walks by next. Well, stomps. Her business-sensible, gold-toed flats shake the feeble cement sidewalk below her and her lipstick is red and seems sharp. She stares ahead with a frightening intensity, but whips around when she sees the couch. Taking a seat in between us, she lets out a rattling sigh and leans backwards. I can feel the heat start radiating off of her. She starts to cool off a bit.

When you walk by, you make a special effort to look forward and avoid eye contact with me. Nonetheless, you stop. You take a glance at the couch, pretending to check first your watch, then the house number of the couch’s respective house. For a second, I hope you’ll sit down. But you train your eyes forward and keep walking.

A cool gust from the gray fall sky carries a couple yellow-and-brown leaves in a swirl past our feet. Part of me was hoping you would sit, and by “part” I mean quite a bit. A little old man in a tattered jacket and newsboy cap sits down beside us, and a scraggly girl of about twelve staring at the black toes of her sneakers. The couch doesn’t seem to run out of room. We’re joined next by a stocky, athletic-looking young man with a blonde crew cut, and a lady with soulful brown eyes in a black restaurant apron.

The street-sign creaks a little in the wind, but it’s not that cold out from my seat on the couch. I see a body emerge from behind the hedge on the street corner. It’s you. You look take another look at the couch and-

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