By: Shannon Ralph
As you know, sleeping with a spouse can be both ephemerally beautiful and annoyingly hellish all at the same time. There is a vision that immediately comes to mind when you think of sharing a bed with a person you love. In my vision, Ruanita and I are both dressed in ankle-length L.L. Bean “Royal Stewart” red tartan flannel nightgowns. (Don’t judge me. I live in Minnesota, for God’s sake. And seriously…I want one of those nightgowns if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas.) We are wrapped in a luxurious down comforter and lying in each other’s arms. Our hair lies beautifully tousled on the pillows beneath our heads. Our dog is snuggled into a perfectly round little ball at the foot of our bed. We both have a deliciously minty aroma escaping from our ever so slightly puckered lips. Ruanita’s nose is making this adorable little squeaky sound as we breathe in unison. I love that little squeak. All is well in the world. I am in bed with the woman I love.
Unfortunately, reality looks a little more like this…
I am lying on my back staring at the ceiling. I am hot under our down comforter. Then I am cold. I fling the covers off of me. Then I pull them on. Then I throw them off again. Ruanita is lying on her side with her mouth mere inches from my left ear. The noises emanating from her nasal passageways are rattling the bed and loosening the fillings in my molars. I elbow her to try to get her to roll the other way. She doesn’t move. I shove a little harder. Nothing. I fake a leg spasm and kick her violently in the shin. Oops. Sorry, honey. Leg spasm. She does eventually roll over, but takes the comforter with her.
Our dog, Stella, takes Ruanita’s exit from the center of the bed as an invitation to wedge herself into the small space between Ruanita and me. Then she does this contortionistic little flip she has mastered that turns her entire body horizontal between us. Suddenly, I have a boxer snout in my crotch. I push and kick and shove trying to scoot the dog back to the foot of the bed. I am cold. I have no blanket. I snuggle up to Ruanita and put my arm around her waist. I am a spooner by nature, and my right arm fits perfectly across her waist and tucks nicely under her hip. To be perfectly honest, I can’t possibly think of a more comfortable position to lie in than spooning up against Ruanita. Unfortunately, our spooning is short-lived.
Within a matter of minutes, Ruanita’s pulsing radiant heat infects me. She is the most hot-blooded creature I have ever met. Though she is amazing to snuggle up against on cold Minnesota nights, temperatures even slightly above freezing make snuggling her a painful affair.
Worse yet are the cold feet. I am convinced Ruanita is a miracle of modern medicine. She must have some sort of advanced circulatory system. Some sort of highly evolved heat-regulating system that mere mortals like me have yet to develop. As a general rule, her body temperature is well above normal at all times. All of her body, that is, except for her feet. Ruanita’s feet somehow manage to stay only moderately warmer than 0 degrees Kelvin. And she is apparently physically incapable of keeping those frozen behemoths on her side of the bed.
I tug at the covers as best I can and roll back over. I have enough cover to drape across me, but not quite enough to tuck under me. I am being tortured by a cold air pocket roughly the exact size of my thigh. Ruanita begins to snore again.
I close my eyes for a few minutes. As I finally begin drifting off to sleep—clinging desperately to my one square foot of blanket—I hear an ominous sound coming from my side of the room. Wait…no. It is not only on my side of the room. It seems to be mere inches from my face. I open my eyes to see a shadow standing right over me. The smell of death permeates my nostrils. Jesus-Fucking-Christ-Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God! This is what my mind screams, but my mouth can only produce a terrified little cheeping noise. It takes a few moments for my eyes to focus before I realize that I am not going to die a grisly death at the hands of a murderous beast right then and there. It is only Nicholas. The only one of my three children who walks right past Ruanita’s side of the bed and all the way across the room to wake me every night. The whiff of death that I smelled was merely his putrid morning breath. I slide one arm across his chest and under his armpits and fling him into the middle of the bed. I say no words. There are no words, really.
An hour or so later, Ruanita sits up suddenly—obviously exasperated with our bedroom arrangement—and declares that she is going to go downstairs and sleep on the couch. “No!” I beg. “Please. Let me go.” She does not listen to my plea. She leaves me in bed with the horizontally lounging dog and Nicholas. Sweet little Nicholas whose parents obviously do not believe in clipping his toenails. I lie there and try to rest between toenail gouges. Eventually Sophie joins us. All chances of sleep evaporate with the addition of the final four limbs. Lucas has joined the party.
The family bed is one more reason that my marriage is just like your marriage.