It is a night like any other night.
The soft glow of the television winks off, signaling the start of our bedtime ritual. I hoist my weary body out of the hollow it creates in our sofa, and begin my journey down the long hall to our bedroom, flicking off lights and peeking into the kids’ rooms on the way. My husband peels himself out of his leather recliner and plods off to the kitchen and sets the coffee maker to brew the hot elixir that will wake us in eight hours.
Peering at my baggy eyes in our bathroom mirror, I floss, brush, and gulp down a self-prescribed combination of eight vitamins, minerals, essential oils and fiber, intended to keep me eternally young, and regular. Although he used to simply strip down to his undies and hop into bed, my husband now joins me at our double sinks, to floss and brush his teeth and a recently filled cavity.
With oral hygiene completed, we fumble into our bedclothes – me in pajama pants and a sweatshirt to keep warm, him barebacked with only his Jockey boxer briefs. Much to my dismay during the winter months, my husband is always hot and turns the fan on before plopping into bed. Despite the chill of the circulating air, the comforting whir of the blades drowns out some of his snoring, so I’m generally OK with it.
We each grab a corner of our quilt, and climb into bed, me on his right, and him on my left.
“Hike,” my husband commands with his eyes already closed. I oblige, lifting my left leg and flopping it over his right. With our legs intertwined in such a way, we kiss goodnight and silence falls.
“Hey, you’re over the roses,” I murmur. Our bed, a 100-year-old French antique with three roses carved into the apex of its lovely arched headboard, only fits a full-sized mattress. The middle rose has always been our equator, our 38th parallel, our Berlin Wall.
Despite our substantial body frames, we have been sleeping on this full-sized mattress our entire 17-year marriage, and territory disputes arise frequently.
With a loud “tsk,” my husband jerks his girth two inches to the left, and as I wait for the resulting undulations of the bed to subside, I find my place in my latest book.
“The light,” my husband moans. He can’t sleep with the light on and I have to read to get sleepy, so I fumble for my book light that is somewhere on my cluttered nightstand. Finding it, I click off the lamp.
“Holy cow that thing is bright,” he whines after I push the button to illuminate the tiny light. He stuffs a pillow over his eyes and I compromise by angling the beam away from his side of the bed. I find the spot on the page where I dropped off the night before and focus my thoughts on the words.
A few minutes later, a familiar sound interrupts my reading. The rhythmic racket like sandpaper scraping rough wood or maracas keeping the beat is always accompanied by a prolonged jiggling of the mattress. These well-known clues point to only one thing: my husband is scratching himself again.
But it’s not so bad. When we lived in moister climates, the scratching was incessant, and often included the additional disruption of my husband furiously rubbing his burning feet together. Although I offered various creams and powders in hopes of dousing his fiery itch, he never seemed to mind it, and in fact, took pride in the association of his condition with “jocks” and “athletes.”
The sounds and shakes soon subside and are topped off with a loud, elongated yawn. Silence falls again and my mind wanders back to the pages of my book. I lose myself in the wordy descriptions of the characters and begin to doze.
Onions. My eyelids blink open and I turn my head to the left. I grope for my book light which, along with the book, has slumped onto my stomach. In the dim light, I see my husband’s open mouth about six inches from my head. The hot breath emanating from this seemingly enormous dark cave makes my nose crinkle.
For some unknown reason, the smell of my husband’s breath does not seem to relate rationally to his eating habits. I don’t recall serving the aromatic bulb with tonight’s dinner or dessert for that matter, but somehow his mouth is giving off the clear scent of onions. The same irrational rules govern the odor of his belches. I could serve him a heaping plate of sugar cookies for dinner, and if he burped afterward, it would smell like salami. Go figure.
“Hon, could you face the other direction?” I gingerly suggest. It takes him a sleepy second to process my request, and then he smacks his dry lips, growls and hurls his body onto his back in a tuck and jerk motion that violently shakes our bed.
Fully awake again, I readjust by book and tiny light, and delve into the words. An unknown period of time passes, and I awaken to find my book back on my stomach and the light buried in the covers. I place the book and light on my nightstand, snuggle into the blankets, and surrender to slumber.
My dreams take me to fuzzy locations with people I can’t remember but somehow recognize. The subconscious situations change frequently and my eyelids twitch. The dream turns fitful, as I struggle to reach something I can’t quite distinguish. Slowly it comes into focus and I realize that I am trying to throw a blanket over a chainsaw that is getting louder and louder.
With a tiny gasp, I awaken and realize that the chain saw of my dreams is my snoring husband.
“Honey, turn on your side, you’re snoring,” I whisper.
“Hu? Wha?” he mumbles. With another prominent “tsk,” he jerks and tucks his body to the left, managing to curl our quilt around him like a giant burrito. Feeling the cold chill of the fan breeze on my uncovered body, I fight for my share of our quilt. Slowly the quilt unravels itself from around my husband and I shield myself from the frigid air.
I lay awake a few minutes, thinking of our nightly ritual and whether or not it indicates anything about our relationship. I feel remorse for making my husband accommodate my light-sleep habits, and contemplate spooning him to communicate my regret.
“Hike.” my husband knowingly whispers from his side of the roses. I flop my leg back over his, and warm and secure in our little bed, we happily drift off to sleep.