Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In Bed

When I was small, my mother would get me ready for bed, pulling a nightgown over my head and folding back the covers in a straight, clean diagonal--a perfect pocket in which to slip my exhausted, squiggly body. Then she would read to me. Sometimes, if it was a book I had heard enough times, it would be me doing the reading, not by eye, but by memory.

My favorite book was Holly Hobby, its pages filled with calico-frocked girls and blue-jeaned boys. I remember the rhyme of the text and all the shades of yellow in the illustrations. On one page the sun was replaced with cerulean rain drops, and Holly Hobby danced under a blue umbrella. That is the way I remember my childhood--yellow and blue, but mostly yellow.

***

I was sleeping over Kelly's house one night when we were nine. We were camped out in Red's bedroom on that hot summer night, sprawled under the arctic blow of the house's only air-conditioner. Downstairs, a drunk voice and a panicked one reverberated thoughout the small colonial. We were alone in the room, the lights off and door open just enough for some light to seep in.

On the plaid flannel of the open sleeping bag, Kelly and I made shadow puppets. Our hands became barking dogs and winged insects that fluttered by on a white wall made bright in one spot where a sliver of light shone in from the hallway.

The next day, out of nowhere, I started crying and I didn't know why. I wanted to go home.

***

At twenty, I sometimes slept over at the fraternity house of the guy I was dating. The brothers called it The Castle because that's what it looked like. It was built in 1896 by a rich businessman named John Paine, who had a wife and a mistress. My (sort-0f) boyfriend lived on the third floor in a room that used to belong to Mr. Paine's mistress. During his first year at the house, he and his roommates were situated one floor below in a room featuring elaborate murals of men in various stages of women's seduction.

I was never too fond of the bed I slept in upon my visits to The Castle. I'd tell Chris it was gross, but he couldn't understand why.

"This mattress is gross!" I wailed the first time I climbed up into the loft. "It is absolutely gross!"

"Gross? What's so gross about it?"

I wondered if he was being rhetorical. Surely, he could not truly wonder what was so gross about a sunken, stained mattress with coils sticking out of it. Rusty coils!

"At least my mattress doesn't have puke stains with chunks," he argued, and it was true. My own mattress at school had puke stains with chunks. Well, not real chunks, at least not anymore. They could more accurately be described as black specks, scattered in between the yell0w-brown circle of faded acid, that clearly indicated the former presence of chunks. The worst part was that they weren't my chunks. Who really knew how many people had vomited on my bed over the years.

Later, during that same visit, while Chris was at the liquor store where he worked part-time and while I was trying to take a nap, I turned over the mattress so the coil in the middle of the bed wouldn't keep jabbing my quasi-boyfriend in the back. After all, I wasn't the one who had to deal with it, sleeping as I did securely on the right side. If Chris wanted to hold me, it was he who would have to lay right on top of the offending piece of metal. I turned the mattress over because I didn't want him forever associating me with the sharp end of a rusty coil.

5 comments:

Mrs. Chicky said...

So that's why people would put those egg crate foam pads on top of their mattresses. I always lived in apartments with my own bed and mattress so I never had to worry about other people's chunks. That's just nasty.

Lauren said...

I used to have Holly Hobby wallpaper. But my favorite book has always been "If you give a mouse a cookie".

Binkytown said...

I never had nasty mattresses but I slept on many a cat-hair covered futon in my day. Not entirely pleasant.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I think I slept on errant slices of pizza and crumpled beer cans when I was in college. Not that I cared at the time.

mothergoosemouse said...

I never slept in my own bed in college.

Heh. Just kidding. I swear.

I love your stories of Red's house.