The life and death of an ordinary object

Sometime in the next four hours, a new mattress is going to be delivered to my house and, perhaps more importantly, my old mattress is going to be taken away.

The old mattress first made its appearance in my life in 1997 in a very dark apartment on West 29th Street. The man who was then my boyfriend and is now my ex-husband had just taken over the apartment of my friend’s brother and though my friend’s brother had left his (insanely comfortable) mattress there for a few months (which weirdly and unknowingly I had once had slept in some years earlier in Brooklyn), he eventually took it back. And so my then-boyfriend and I bought this new mattress together. Our first big purchase. It seemed like an extraordinary amount of money at the time, but I do believe, over 17 years later, we got our money’s worth.

Of course, we took this mattress with us wherever we went. It traveled to Brooklyn, back into Manhattan, all the way up to Columbia County, where it moved to three different houses, before ending up here, in my apartment, a little over a year ago.

It is hard to remember that mattress when it was new. It may have even had a brand-new mattress smell, but now, after 17 years of being covered in pretty much every bodily fluid you can think of (both human and cat), I can’t say that it does anymore. In truth it smells faintly like bleach, in my frantic effort to remove the smell of cat pee once and for all. Actually my cat is directly what led to the midnight online purchase of the new mattress, but I had been thinking about it for quite some time.

This mattress is so sagged, so unwieldy, that when my boyfriend Tony and I finally got it out of the moving truck the last time, we left it on the grass of the tiny front lawn of my house, too exhausted to maneuver it one single inch more. We then drove the rental truck back to the rental truck place, no doubt leaving my neighbors to stare out of their windows in complete horror. We eventually, with the tiniest shred of strength we had left in us, dragged it into my bedroom and slid it onto the box spring. And then collapsed one final time.

The mattress once even had a nice iron bed frame, but now it is just sitting on a box spring on the floor, which always makes me feel like a college student, not necessarily in a bad way. It is the first mattress my children slept on when they came home from the hospital and the place they returned to first thing in the morning for many many years. It is the place on which my younger daughter liked to jump (to this song in particular, which she referred to as “One-Two” and for which I never corrected her) and which, to its credit, never collapsed as I feared it would. It is where my younger daughter and I read together most nights and where, when either of my girls felt sick, I always brought them to.

Huge decisions and life-changing moments occurred on that mattress; dozens of bad dreams took place there. I spent years and years sleeping on it with another person and then, suddenly, it was mine alone. For this very reason, I wanted it gone when I moved here; why was I bringing the past along with me? But you know how that goes, right? Your past comes along with you, whether or not you actually carry it on your old mattress into your new apartment.

And I can’t say that I’m sorry to see it go. If you saw it stripped of its fancy sheets, you’d know what I mean (the horror!). I’m not even quite sure what the new mattress will be like (I bought it so impulsively with the only requirement being: new mattress) or where we will go together. But as far as I’m concerned, the old city mattress ends its life right here in a little rural village, where I too ended up, and that seems about right.

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