My muscles start in with their nightly ritual of tightening and twitching; as if all the fibers begin shrinking in unison. Coordinated contraction. Synchronized shrinkage. Community curtailment. A big, fat pain in the ass—or, as the moment would have it… limbs.
The sensation takes me by surprise every single time, but I don’t get upset. Not anymore—it isn’t worth the energy. I bide my time with stretches and self medication and conversation instead.
These days I find it’s best not to fight it. Let it ease its way into the night, easing me, of course, out of mine.
Because this ritual leads to an eventual surrender. And on this night, I’ve had it.
“I think I’m going to head up.”
(Heaving the dreaded sigh of sympathy)
“Alright, babe. I’ll be up soon.”
And that’s that. I gather my glasses and water, kiss my moon goodnight, and head upstairs with the cat hot on my heels.
I won’t lie; I miss the freedom of staying up late any night I please. It’s an odd thing to be sent to bed by your body—a child shooed away by the discerning voice of her cells.
But as much as I miss my night owl freedom, I’ll also admit: I fucking love our bed. So, while there is a touch of despair in my voice as I whisper goodnight, I’m overtaken with excitement by the time I reach the top of our stairs. A child again, this time delighted.
I let pants drop to ankles, stepping lightly from the pile of pajama at my feet. I peel back the comforter to slide bare legs between deliciously cool sheets. It’s a particularly cold January night, the snow falling again, so I leave my t-shirt undisturbed. I draw the comforter back to my chin and recline to my pillow.
All is well.
And now, I wait.
There’s a sacred space between wakefulness and sleep—the moment you’re most vulnerable to the sighs of the evening, and most protective of your own drifting consciousness. You’re setting sail; unsure of where you’re going, but relinquishing all control to get there. Let’s face it, there aren’t many things that can compete with the experience. So god help the poor bastard who makes waves in the waters of my sleep.
Enter, the mister.
I’m used to Josh crawling into bed after me. He’s a musician, so I’m well-acquainted with weird hours and odd noises—trusting the sounds of another body awake in the house. On this night I heard the few steps that creak, mostly toward the middle of the case. I heard the groan of our old door and the soft shuffle of bare feet across carpeting. I heard the familiar ahem of his throat and felt the bed depress as he climbed in.
Although I was too close to sleep to verbalize it, I felt relief to have him join me.
All is well.
And now, I wait.
Just a bit longer.
The thing about that twilight space between wide awake and dead asleep is you don’t have an accurate feel for time. Josh joining me in bed could have been minutes after I left him on the level below, then again, I might have been two hours deep in my voyage preparations.
All I know for sure is I hadn’t set sail. I wasn’t yet safe from sleep sabotage.
The change in temperature was almost undetectable. So lost in the decline, my body took time to register anything being wrong at all. But something—something was off.
As I repositioned myself I heard the rustling of Josh’s side, and with each resettling I could feel the drowse abandoning me. I wouldn’t dare equate sleep slipping through my fingers to something actually tragic, but the in the moment, a little piece of me was dying. The temperature was somehow changing—under the sheets—and no repositioning could offer me salvation. With each movement I was brought that much closer to real life and my heart sank into a deeper pit of frigid horror.
(whispers, giggles, rustling)
“Sorry, babe” he whispers. “My feet are so cold.”
Like a wrecking ball, his apology pulverized the last trace of slumber I had been clinging so pathetically to.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m sorry. My feet are freezing.”
“But what are you doing!? Joshhhh. Stoppppp.“
(giggles escalating to quiet laughter)
“Babe, I’m sorry. You’re just so warm, I’m not touching you. I’m just trying to have some heat.”
“STOP. Just STOP. YOU’RE RUINING EVERYTHING.”
(laughter. actual, uncontrollable, infuriating laughter)
“I’m sorry. Listen, I’m sorry (laughter) Look, I’m not even touching you, I’m just trying to warm up.”
“You’re stealing it! What is wrong with you? How could you do this to me?”
“BABE. C’mon. Pleeaaaase. (laughter) You’re so warm and I’m so COLD. PLEASE. Just for a second.”
“Josh. I’m not even joking. I was up here so close to sleep and you come in and put your freakishly cold feet in my sanctuary? You’re ruining my sanctuary! Stoppppppppppp. You’re the WORSTPERSONEVERRRRRRRRR”
(touches freezing feet of death to my innocent warm leg)
“STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. IT’S NOT FUNNY.”
(begrudgingly joining him in uncontrollable laughter)
(rolling in bed with tears of anger mixed with tears of joy)
“You’re the worst.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. Jerk.”
I rolled over, first ironing the comforter flat between us—as if this would prevent his menacingly cold feet from reaching out to me again. I settled with a heaping sigh, exhaling the last chortle of the night.
I waited for the euphony of a podcast streaming from his side of the bed—another nightly ritual.
And just like that, I fell off to sleep.
[image: life is funny]