Last night I did something in bed I haven’t done in years. I was contentedly lying there, dreaming I was King of Bloggers and had finally figured out the difference between further and farther, and a while and awhile, when it happened. Mrs. Chatterbox was on the far side of our king-size bed and in no position to monitor what was going on. That’s when it happened. I felt ashamed when it was over. I mean, I’m not a kid anymore and this sort of thing doesn’t happen to grown men, even men with bladders shrunken to the size of peanuts and requiring frequent trips to the bathroom.
Okay, I’ve let you entertain prurient thoughts long enough. I didn’t abuse myself or have a nocturnal accident last night. I rolled out of bed and landed with an unceremonious thump on the floor. Mrs. Chatterbox bolted from dead sleep and asked, “What was that? Are you alright?”
I scratched my head and tried to focus on the strange viewpoint of our darkened bedroom. The perspective was that of a mouse and I felt tiny and insignificant. The heap of decorative pillows tossed aside when we turned down the bed appeared massive, my discarded shoes menacing with their snake-like laces. I briefly felt like Alice in Wonderland and half expected to see the insolent grin of the Cheshire cat glowing in the darkened window.
“Are you alright?” Mrs. C. repeated.
“Yes. I…I guess I rolled out of bed,” I answered, returning to my tangle of sheets and repositioning my pillow.
She gave me a kiss on the cheek.
I lay there for several minutes, until a thought caught like a bramble on the sweater of my memory. I was a little boy in baggy pajamas spending a Saturday night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I remember it well: the room off the kitchen was small, the bed so big it brushed against one of the walls. Grandma would hear my prayers and tuck me in. After she left, Grandpa would arrive, his shape a stocky silhouette in the light-filled doorway.
“Have you been a good boy today?” he’d ask, the rumpled fedora he always wore pushed back on his bald head.
I would nod and he’d place two bits in my hand. “Go to sleep now,” he’d say, pushing the bedroom door closed, careful to leave it open just a crack so I wouldn’t be thrown into total darkness.
I’d hear the TV click on and Grandpa’s joints would crackle and pop like my favorite cereal as he sank into his living room armchair. Before long the theme from Perry Mason would hum on the TV. As Perry began his defense, the door to my bedroom would open wider. Grandma would be standing there, silently listening to me breathe, a chair from the kitchen table in her hands. Worried I’d roll out of the big iron bed, she’d sneak into the bedroom and place two chairs against the side of the bed so I’d roll into them instead of falling to the floor. I always pretended to be asleep when Grandma came with her chairs; her gesture to keep me safe always made me feel warm and loved.
Once when the circus came to town, Grandma and Grandpa took me to see flying acrobats soaring through the air, spinning between trapezes a hundred feet above the ground. My enjoyment was marred by thoughts of what might happen if they fell. Grandpa told me not to worry. “That’s what the net is for—to catch them so they won’t get hurt.” I hadn’t noticed the net and enjoyed the acrobats much more knowing it was there.
But last night there were no chairs to keep me from rolling out of bed and falling to the floor. I guess being an adult meant working life’s trapeze without a net. But I was wrong. Mrs. C. couldn’t have picked a better time to reach over and squeeze my hand. She snuggled her head on my chest.
The truth; I’m a lucky man—I’ve never been without a net.