I remember the first night I ever slept alone in my first apartment in Portland. I lived in a little studio in NW, along a street that kept itself awake with the rattlings of shopping carts and the slow and steady beeping of the cash register. I laid down in my full bed and slipped myself against the flannel; the same flannel that had been pressed and pulled over the bed the very first time I slept in it.
I’d been sleeping in a twin bed up until that point, but it was my birthday, and my parents had gotten me a new mattress. They wanted it to be a surprise I think, but I was perpetually holed up in my room like a pack rat, downing cans of mountain dew and attending to the chorus of beeps on my computer. They told me to leave my room for a minute, a horror, and I watched them slide this new bed in and replace my old one. I knew the space in my bed would one day represent the person sleeping beside me. A teenage glorification of love. I had arrived. I was an adult. One more star on the board of growing up.
In Portland again, I slipped against those sheets. I looked against the wall and watched the light from down below cast shadows of figures throughout the room. And in the clanking, I fell asleep, alone.
Living with someone creates an invisible border down your bed, one that is guarded, one that is often trespassed. It is a peculiar thing. I had loaded my own faithful bed into a u-haul and moved my boyfriends slightly larger bed into my room. The difference between a full and a queen is essential when legs and arms flop around like hungry octopi.
He gets in bed early, a habit that I slowly took to myself. The other evening after eating dinner I crawled between the sheets and heard my phone ba-ding! An alert to remind me that Jeopardy would be on in five minutes. What had become of the night owl? Who, who, who was I?
I toss and turn, a stereotype that’s fairly true, I take the bed. I want to use the mattress as a torture device, strap my legs and arms outwards into a cross and pull, stretch out the joints, release all the tension from the day.
A bed isn’t just a place for sleep. It’s a place for decompression. It’s a place for letting it out. It’s a place for connecting. It’s a place for fucking. It’s a place for deep-eye gazing. It’s a place for love, and other things.
The other night I found myself laughing maniacally in my sleep and he woke up and turned on the light and stared at me like I might not be well. He asked me what I was saying and I said “I don’t understand” and then said something about feminism. I’m pretty sure he thought I might be possessed so he did a sweep of the house to check for demons and I spent the next hour or so contemplating in my serious state of lucidity whether or not I might be the devil.
It is certain that I much prefer sleeping with someone than sleeping by myself. A bed that fits two (or three, or four) fits just one like a single cookie on a cookie sheet. It’s just not right, it is too vast, it is alarming. When he is gone I craft a person from a pillow and wrap myself around it to fill the void. It is not the same as a kiss, a hug, or the straight to sleep thunk of a book hitting your forehead.
Sharing a bed can feel absurd at times, the entanglement of limbs, the night talking, the going to bed and the waking up, the alarms, the sun blasting through the window like a pervy neighbor. But it is something that I have come to put in my top five favorite parts of living with him – living together – cohabiting. Every evening I fall asleep, and every morning he is still there.