Dear Kat –
I scooped up your ex-boyfriend so quickly that I could never bring myself to meet you. You were fresh in his mind, you lived down the street, and you were his mythical first love: your battle with leukemia made you tragic, your remission made you heroic, your nursing occupation made you righteous. Even though the things he said about you—that you were controlling and shrill, that you hated giving blow jobs, that you insisted he abstain from habits reminiscent of your father (drinking)—made you look breathtakingly selfish. In my mind, you were both: angelic and utterly psychopathic.
Still, I have to thank you for the bed.
Nurses are far better paid than bike mechanics (his job) and freelance web editors (my job, at the time). When you treated yourself to a new bed and offered us your hand-me-down queen-size frame (with box spring and mattress!), we accepted without a second thought. So what if the bed could unleash (in him) a torrent of romantic nostalgia and (in me) a creeping sense of inadequacy? We couldn’t prioritize such lofty concerns—we were sleeping on a twin mattress.
In truth, once we had the bed set up, I don’t think either of us thought too much about its history, because what mattered was that it raised us above the floor. It elevated our lives. It was firm and clean and white, and we had great sex on it and sometimes he would tie me to it (bliss!) and sometimes we would stay in it all day.
When we broke up, I inherited the bed for logistical reasons (the logistics being that he wanted to get out of town as soon as possible). That was seven years ago. Since that time, he moved to Portland and got engaged. Your leukemia returned, metastasized, and took your life. I stayed in New York, slowly jackhammered my way into the publishing world, and kept all my old furniture because, in my line of work, thrift is essential. The bed has held up—in fact, if anything, it’s taken on new life. While it once was silent and still, now, at the slightest provocation, it bellows from its springs and moves on its castors.
Could it be that this creaky old bed is the only one of your possessions still in use? What would you think of me? The cat sheds on it constantly and crawls into the box spring while I’m at work. The young men I bring home politely ignore the creaking and the rolling (on nights of particular abandon, we travel halfway across the room) and then suggest that we stay at his place next time. Part of the problem is that, even as your bed deteriorates, my beaux and I are declining even faster: our average combined weight far exceeds what any pairing among a baby-faced bike mechanic, a hopeful young nurse, and an underemployed web editor could have ever exerted, and this will only hasten the final, irreparable break.
Lord! Someday I’ll give in and take the shuttle-bus to IKEA, where I’ll purchase a bed with wooden-slat supports and a rolled-up mattress that slowly decompresses when I unpack it at home. I’ll call in favors from my more able-bodied friends and drag your bed down the three flights of stairs to the trash. Will I miss that old thing? I came after you, Kat. But I feel no sense of debt for what you gave me.
— Catherine Tung