Connor Kloster / Essay / November 2017

Bruce and the Couch


Bruce stabbed someone with a samurai sword during a crack deal gone wrong.

This was all I could think about as he helped me carry a couch into my apartment. His biceps were larger than my upper body. Steroids coursed through his blood like giddy children at a waterpark. The police report described him as six-foot but he seemed oddly short in proportion to his gargantuan muscles. The contrast of his pseudo-cartoonish voice to sheer mass and horrific reputation was unsettling. I already diagnosed him with a Napoleon complex before getting up the first flight of stairs. Despite his reputation and his alarming physical stature, he had a polite—even warm—demeanor.

He mentioned to my girlfriend at the time that if we ever needed weed he could help us out. But I knew very well that if we ever wanted anything stronger he’d be the guy. I don’t know what smoking hard drugs smells like but after a year and a half of living above Bruce I have a good guess.

On multiple accounts I would hear a voice echoing from a throat mangled by decades of smoking illicit chemicals wailing “Bruce! Bruce!” from the street at seven in the morning trying to get Bruce’s attention. Bruce’s “friends” were impatient and unsavory. This woman in particular had skin that looked like a ripped up piece of drywall. Her splotched makeup did a piss-poor job of hiding her cracked face and splintered lips. His visitors were agitated, wide-eyed, ghoulish creatures who had passed the threshold of looking human. They came and went as if his apartment were a drive through.

My girlfriend and I were in a fresh relationship. Our hearts fluttered with the prospect of a new life. When we saw the alluring couch resting on the sidewalk, our dazzled minds took control. We mistook the antiquitous essence of the couch as being charming and mistook finding free furniture for our empty apartment as being fate. I’ve learned that fateful fortune doesn’t live on the side of the road. We threw the couch on two skateboards we borrowed (without asking) from the neighbors kids and rolled it back home. The couch was deceptive. I wish there had been a police report to shed light on the shady qualities of the couch like there was for Bruce.

It was a clusterfuck of broken plywood mashed onto springs all wrapped together in delusive floral print. Trying to get comfortable on the couch was like shifting in a pile of wood shards. When I develop lower back problems, I know where to put the blame. What could have been relaxing nights of binge-watching became torturous attempts to lounge. All the while basking in Bruce’s cigarette smoke seeping through the slits in our door.

The stakes to a minor dispute are exacerbated by the reputation of the involved parties. I hadn’t put my trash in the appropriate five-dollar trash bags so the town never picked it up. The leftovers of an elaborate surf and turf meal were aging finely for weeks in the closet of our shared hallway. As I came up the stairs Bruce was pacing the hall in what I believe was a steroid and cocaine-fueled rage. As innocent as pacing can be, it is also a grim indication to the level of anger someone is feeling. “This isn’t your trash in here is it?” It was, and I didn’t have a liable excuse besides procrastination. His eyes were veiny. The hallway felt like a pressure chamber as the tension of garbage-provoked conflict built up. The rest of the interaction consisted of my nervous blabbering and ill-conceived excuses. I truly don’t remember what I said. All I remember is dwelling on the image of the samurai sword most likely tucked away in his apartment.

I no longer shift achingly on that haphazard piece of furniture. Reminiscing about that floral-printed disgrace of a couch is astonishingly nostalgic. I also miss saying hello in passing to my infamous neighbor. It was a disheveled environment to live in but the only regret I have is not burning that couch.