Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Bed

The bed was too narrow. They knew it was too narrow the first night they slept in it, or tried to sleep, and woke up cramped, in a bad mood from the very first moment of the day, like tourists stumbling off a bad bus into a bright city, pretty well pissed-off already.

The bed had come with the apartment. The bed had belonged to the previous tenant, who'd been an acquaintance of theirs, a rich man who believed he was righteous, who filled notebooks with personal messages from Jesus. The rich man fell deeply and passionately in love with younger poorer men on the other side of the planet, whom he courted with bank transfers.

When the younger poorer men failed to return his love -- or, rather, when they realized his love had nothing to do with them whatsoever -- the rich man wanted his money back. Meticulously, he destroyed their lives. He had a staff of lawyers for this, suing one ex-boyfriend after another.

This was his bed. It was already a gay bed, which was good. And cursed, which was unfortunate.

They knew from the beginning that the bed was never going to work. As well as being narrow it was somehow warped: one side sloped down, there was a lump in the middle. Still, they continued to sleep in the bed, or try to sleep. Despite the fact that one of them was always uncomfortable, and sometimes both.

They had little arguments in the middle of the night. Could you just move a little? I'm already off the edge! Yeah, and I'm smashed against the wall! The bed was so cramped it seemed a third man must be in bed with them. A fourth, even.

Sometimes in the morning they gazed at the bed in wonderment, wondering how an ordinary bed could be so remarkably uncomfortable. Still, they went on sleeping in the bed. They hated the bed. The bed stayed.

Why did the bed stay if they hated the bed? The bed had no doubt been expensive -- the rich man had had expensive tastes. A bigger bed would make the room look cramped and the closets hard to get to -- though presumably it would have been more pleasant to be cramped for a moment while choosing a shirt, rather than cramped all night.

Would a few inches of bed really make so much difference? Both men suspected the other would never be satisfied. Each man was convinced that he himself was naturally easygoing and would be more so, if only he could get a halfway decent night of sleep.

The number one reason they did not get a new bed was because they were sure that they would not be staying long. Because what they really wanted was to get a better apartment. One that wasn't garlanded on all sides by electrical wires and girded by evangelical missionaries.

Not just another apartment, but another city, a city with color. With people who had not entirely forgotten how to smile. With music coming out of windows and places to eat outside.

They knew that they would not be staying long. So there was no reason to spend money and go to a lot of trouble just for a bed in a cramped apartment in a gray city they planned soon to be leaving.

They went on sleeping in the bed. They admitted now they wished they'd tossed out the bed the first night, when it was obvious the bed was narrow, cursed and cramped. They wished they'd gone to the trouble.

In this city it cost a lot of money even to have your bed taken away, even this bed, which had been expensive and could probably be sold to someone who'd never suspect why he'd become so enduringly unhappy. Of course they had no idea, then, they that they would stay so long in this city, in this apartment, in this bed. If only they had known! But now of course, there was no point -- because they knew that they would not be staying long.

One or the other might sometimes wonder if it might have made a difference, somehow, if they'd gone ahead and gotten a better, wider bed. Certainly a bed like theirs did nothing to inspire tenderness or lust, not anymore than a pair or pants that don't fit. The bed may have significantly contributed to the crankiness they very often felt, toward this city, and toward each other.

But maybe it would not have mattered. Another bed probably would not have been much more comfortable. As mentioned previously, they both suspected the other would never be satisfied. It might have been, actually, that things were not working out so well between them. And then one or the other would think: there is no reason to change the bed. He may not be staying long.

The bed would be fine for one person -- wouldn't it? The rich man had nearly always slept in it alone. He only fell in love with men who were faraway so that he might, without interruption, superimpose his own romantic vision upon them. The rich man slept alone, lullabied by dreams of romantic love, romantic lawsuits.

Yet -- hadn't the man complained frequently of not sleeping well? In fact he'd been a perpetual insomniac. And the two men had always assumed it was because he was mad with love or vengeance, busy filling notebooks with personal messages from Jesus.

But maybe he only did these mad things because he could not sleep? Perhaps he was not -- essentially demonic, as they had always assumed. Or at least -- not possessed by any other demon than insomnia. One of the most ordinary of demons, one of the greatest. No one on Earth was ever further from madness than not sleeping two nights in a row.

It now seemed to them both that the bed was really the problem. They agreed about this. And nowadays there were not so many things about which they agreed. The bed was a problem, it was a really a problem and a problem they ought to do something about. Or ought to have done. But then they said, "We are not staying long" and they went on sleeping in the bed. Trying to sleep in the bed.

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