It hadn’t once occurred to him to slide his hand down between the sofa cushions. He had spent almost an hour scrubbing the stupid rings she had created on the wooden table with her stupid black coffee. He had fished that hideous mustard yellow t-shirt from the darkness beneath the bed. He’d won it in a pub quiz months before, intending on binning it until she had stopped him, immediately confessing her love for it more naturally than she ever had for him. He had even tried and failed to remove the red wine stain from the corner of the cream carpet. It was probably the worst casualty of her drunkenly passionate rants about Hemingway being overrated. He’d known before he started that the stain wouldn’t budge. Eventually he had resorted to covering it with the hideous purple rug her mother had brought them back from Peru or South Africa or a charity shop. As far as he was concerned, the agency had the keys and his mind could be freed of the apartment.
Had he taken the time to push his fingers between the right cushion and the right arm of the chair, he would have felt a lone chopstick. It had been their third date, he hadn’t asked her to come back to his but she had invited herself and he hadn’t complained. They hadn’t gotten more than fifteen minutes into the Antiques Roadshow re-run before all clothes were on the floor and all limbs lost their owners. He’d called it making love, she’d had a much more crude word for it. Wedged on the end of the chopstick he would have found a prawn cocktail crisp packet folded into an origami triangle. It had been constructed during an argument over his parents coming to lunch, she needed something to keep her hands busy when they fought. She was always making them, folding packets and wrappers of all colours and sizes into triangles, tucking in the ends so they held their shapes. He used to keep a little dish of them on his bedside table.
The space between the left cushion and the left arm of the chair concealed a pen from a hotel they’d stayed at in Budapest. She used to make it a mission to take a ‘souvenir’ from every hotel they stayed at, that time it was the pen she’d ‘accidentally’ forgotten to give back at the reception desk, the time before it was a fancy shower gel that smelled like an elderly woman, and the time before that it was a single slipper made of that sort of towel material that looks soft but isn’t. That one she’d decided to take with her. Beside the pen there was a bottle cap. Beneath the cushions there were probably more. He’d never have been able to remember what day this exact one was from. To think he didn’t used to drink.
But he didn’t check down the side of the sofa. He didn’t find the chopstick, the crisp packet triangle, the pen or any of the bottle caps. With a final slam of the often slammed front door, he left.