I wonder, gentle reader, if you have ever considered the polarities inherent in a bed? Probably not, so let me explain. Most of us are conceived in one, presuming our parents lacked access to the back seat of a ’53 Buick. If our parents get to the hospital in time, most of us are born in one, and if we are lucky, we die in one. If we are extremely lucky, we die in one in our own home surrounded by those we love and who love us. If we are less lucky, we die in one in the middle of a sterile, brightly lit room surrounded by machines, our bodies assailed by tubes, needles, probes and monitors of all types. Either way, the bed is the first and last thing in our lives. It sees us at the moment of our entrance into the world, and watches as the exit door swings shut behind us.
Despite the popularity of the kitchen table, it is where our most important decisions are made. “Will you marry me?”, ” Do you think we should buy the house?”, “Are you ready to start a family?”
It is the witness to our most intimate moments, yet put one in an hotel room and it is a generic way station for an endless stream of anonymous strangers on their way to somewhere more important and interesting. It can be a huge construction of heavy, varnished wood and high thread count sheets in a mansion, costing thousands of dollars, or it can be a thin foam mat and a sleeping bag under a single layer of nylon fabric. Choosing a bed is an important act. Both of you must like the style and size. The mattress must be firm enough, yet yielding enough for both parties. We men may not care about dust ruffles, shams or counterpanes, but we accept their importance with good grace. Over time, the mattress, no matter how many times we flip it, conforms to our bodies, moulding itself to our particular pattern, indelible proof of our existence.
So here’s my point. Tonight, I sleep alone for the first time in 20 years in a bed that is unknown to me. I say “alone” but that is not quite true. While STBX and I have occupied the same bed for the whole of our marriage, I may as well have been sleeping alone for most of the last five years. Physical proximity to another sleeping person can in no way be equated with physical intimacy. An arms’ length may as well be a light year. I can’t say I’m looking forward to tonight. I could equate it to being in an hotel, but no, I am here for at least six months and the thought of being on my own for so long is not a pleasant one. It’s not my bed, and yet it is. I didn’t choose it, I didn’t make it, I didn’t buy the linens. It’s a strangers’ bed. And I am a stranger. Polarity.
But this is not all me. STBX pointed out to me that it will be equally, if not more weird for her. The house is the same, it still contains most of my stuff, but it’s not my home, it’s her home. Our bed is now her bed. She will climb into it tonight without me being on the other side. As indeed will I, and this poses something of a dilemma. Will I cling to the right hand edge as usual, or will I sleep in the middle? Will I sprawl or curl up? One thing I know for certain is that I won’t sleep straight through the night. I haven’t done that in two months, so at least there will be some consistency.
I’m no Samuel Pepys, as you all know by now, so I will finish by simply saying “And so to polarity”.