Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Her Life in Bed




Lydia had her own bed, but it provided cold comfort, especially after she’d wet it, making the climb into the Everest of the parental bed all the more desirable. She snuggled between her parents and their body heat lulled her into a secure sleep, the best of her life.
            Her parents divorced, and Lydia had her own room, but she still slept with her mom more often than not. Her baby brother slept there, too, and the dogs, and the cats. She never noticed any bad smells. One Easter, she took a baby chick into bed with her family. Her mom rolled onto it during the night. 

            Lydia didn’t cry when she found the chick in the morning, its eyes closed. She petted its feathered body, now flat and peaceful and utterly beautiful. She wished she still had it. The after, not the before. She’d keep it in a clear plastic container in the freezer and take it out on stressful days.

           A nest of dreams, her teenage bed threatened to never let her go. Every night the music and adventure of her sleeping life grew more vivid, rich and lovely. Lydia slept for fourteen hours straight. She awakened only out of curiosity, wondering if the world had changed. Not only had it not, but no one had noticed her absence. She got up to eat and to change her sheets. Fresh and crisp, the flat coolness of clean sheets calmed her overheated imagination.
            Lydia floated on the magic carpet of that clean, cool bed into her twenties. Not the same bed, but its essence. She exchanged the intangible for the physical. She traveled far from the free flow of fantasy into the hard reality of total control. A life raft, her bed provided entertainment. Lydia was the captain and peopled it as she chose. She doesn’t remember sleeping. Afterwards, she changed her sheets and fell into them exhausted and dreamless.
            Her box spring and mattress sat on the floor. Lydia and her husband—not yet her husband, just a good lover—changed the sheets together. They faced off on either side of the bed, senses on alert, muscles flexed. Same height, about the same weight, they were evenly matched. The last tuck, a flat playing field, and the attack began. Full-on wrestling, dirty tricks allowed—tickling, pubic hair pulling, pinching, a finger up the butt—his trick, not hers. The giggling was ferocious. Glorious, feisty sex followed, and then a mellow straightening of the sheets.
            She worked. He worked. They had children, a dog, and a housekeeper. A decade and more of never making her own bed passed. They no longer wrestled. Lydia doesn’t remember the sheets.
            The children left. The dog died. Lydia and her husband bought a mattress that silenced the existence of the other person. No rolls, no ripples, no creaks or groans. Lydia could pretend she was in bed alone. She liked the pretense, not actual aloneness. So did her husband. For extra insurance, they placed a king-sized pillow between them. 

            Lydia hugged the pillow in the night. Sometimes her husband stole it from her, but they didn’t struggle over it. That would have required interaction. Her new life in bed made no allowance for that. 


Appeared in the Spring, 2015 issue of Pilgramage, the SLEEP edition, Volume 38, #3
pilgrimage press.org