I’ve lain me down to sleep in a lot of different beds. From dirt floors to feather beds. From straw stuffed ticks to a $4,000.00 state of the art Stearns& Foster Golden Elegance Mattress “made with Moisture-wicking Mongolian horsehair and Insulating, durable New Zealand wool” so thick you needed a step stool to climb onto it. I’ve slept in hotels so elegant that you couldn’t get a room if you weren’t wearing a tux, and motels so cheap that you could get a room if you were butt naked; provided you had five dollars.
I,ve slept in planes, trains,cars, boats and on saddles. I,ve slept alone and with up to six people in one bed. I laid down to catch a few winks in a bunker between my shifts on guard duty [it was easier than going back to the guard shack then returning to the bunker] I woke up in six inches of water from a monsoon cloudburst. I raised my head, saw that I was as wet as I could possibly be, and just stuck my helmet under my head and dozed off again.
The Bible says ” As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed”, I can say with authority that its true. Was there ever a greater affection felt, by man or woman, than the deep love for a soft warm bed when you have to leave it in the middle of a cold night? You lay there feeling the warmth in every fiber of you body; even you mind is warm. As the cold caresses your nose it can take enormous will to throw the covers off and leave you own little personal paradise.
I,ve learned at lot of lessons either on or in a bed. One of the first cracks in my near total ignorance of women occurred on a motel bed in Alabama, many years ago. It’s a long story.
In the fall of 1970 I returned from a tour in Viet-Nam. My wife and I had married two weeks before I left for overseas, and except for a week in Hawaii on R&R, had been apart for the first year of our marriage. My next post was in Alabama, about a twenty hour drive in our brand new second-hand 64 Pontiac Catalina. I patiently explained to my bride that I didn’t know what we would find there, so I should go ahead, check in, find us a place to stay and then fly her out in a day or two. It made perfectly good sense to me. My mate then proceeded to demonstrate how a 105 lb. woman can take a 200 lb. man, turn him 180 degrees around and push him off in a completely different direction without breaking a sweat. She gave me an entirely new reading of ” Whither thou goest I will go” that I had never before considered. It was one of the first of ten thousand lessons I would learn about women.
I was the second of four brothers. Growing up with no girls near my age had left me with a profound ignorance of the female thought process. My new wife was the second of three sisters who had little to no male influence in their lives. Let the games begin.
I grew up with John Wayne, Bogart, Shane and Roy Rodgers as my guides; keep your own counsel, never let ’em know what your thinking, and NEVER let them see that you’re hurt. That narrative was reinforced by all of the men I had been raised around; my father, grandfather, and my uncles. They were mostly men who thought long and spoke short. My own natural inclination was to observe and ponder on the world around me and keep my thoughts to myself.
If a thought was in my wife’s mind it was on her face the same instant and out her mouth the next. She, her two sisters and their mother, would sit at the table, all talking at once, with four different topics in the air and all of them could follow all of this chatter without any apparent effort. It was a source of complete amazement to me.
I rented the smallest U-Haul trailer they had, it was about the size of a large icebox, and we piled all of our worldly possessions in; they filled it not quite half full, and with shaking of hands, hugs and kisses, and many tears we set off for Alabama.
It’s a bit over seven hundred miles from Dallas, Texas,to Ft. Rucker ,Alabama. You travel thru the Piney Woods of East Texas and cross the broad Red River at Shreveport. The bayous and flatlands of northern Louisiana give way to the forested hills of central Mississippi after you go over the great river at Vicksburg.
I’d always loved to travel, to see new sights and drink in new sounds and flavors and scents of new lands, but I’d always done it alone, wrapped in my own thoughts. Now I had a companion, in every sense of the word. Someone to talk to, to listen to, to turn to and say ‘ Look at that, isn’t that something, what do you think of that?’
I liked it very much. It was a new experience to have someone who was more than a friend could be. Between the closest friends there is always some reserve; some places, thoughts, feelings where you dare not go lest they alter the dynamic of the friendship. But when you are joined to a Mate, when you ride life’s river with someone to whom you are bound, rich or poor, fair or foul, come what may, you are set free in a way that cannot be equaled in any other relationship. You are multiplied. One plus one becomes ten thousand. I liked it very much.
Twenty hours and the trip came to its end in Daleville, Alabama, at about 11:00 P.M. We checked into a motel near the post entrance and carried our bags inside.
“Why don’t you take a shower and we’ll get some sleep before you have to go report in. We have a new life to start in the morning.” With a laughing kiss my wife sent me off to the bathroom.
Under the shower I reflected on my life up till now. I had come thru the war a little bruised and battered but in one piece, nothing missing. I’d seen many others with far greater damage to overcome. My country did not love soldiers anymore, but I had my own personal brass band cheering section on the other side of the door. The twenty hour journey with my new wife had washed away what anger or disappointment I may have felt about the war and the betrayal, by my own countrymen, of myself and my brothers in arms.
Stepping out of the shower I glanced in the mirror as I dried off thinking; ‘ I have come through the valley, I’m in one piece, We have $2,500.00 in the bank, we owe no one a dime, I’m an E-5 and don’t have to pull KP or guard duty, and my laughing loving wife is just outside that door with no greater ambition than to jump into my arms and die of happiness. This is the peak, its straight up all the way.” With a smile so big it hurt, I hung up the towel, threw the door wide and stepped triumphant into the bedroom.
My mate and companion was sitting in the middle of the bed, in her ‘I’m going to sleep’ nightgown, [ all wives have an ‘I’m going to sleep’ nightgown, I think it comes with the trousseau] crying her eyes out.
The first thought that flashed thru my brain was ‘ My God, her mother’s died’. Between my inexpert coaxing and her sobbing it took a minute or so to rule out that possibility. My next guess was that the trailer with all of our worldly possessions, meager as they were, had been stolen. I dashed to the door and onto the sidewalk only to see the car and trailer just as we’d left them, then realizing I was butt naked, jumped back inside and slammed the door.
Dragging my pants on I returned to the bed and inspected my wife as best as I could and found no cuts, bruises or wounds of any kind. Taking her in my arms I soothed and petted and rocked her, trying to draw out what was wrong. After a few moments of this, she scooted off of the bed, stood at the foot and assumed what I would come to think of as her “Presentation” mode; feet apart, arms to the front, palms up, with a kleenex in one hand, facing square on and shaking her hands up and down for emphasis. Standing thus, she revealed to me ‘ What was wrong’
I will summarize;
” You have drug me half way across the country, and we don’t even have a place to stay. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, where we’ll live , what I’ll do, if we’ll even have something to eat.” At this point she burst into another fit of sobbing, turned and went into the bathroom and slammed and locked the door.
I was completely flabbergasted. If a polka-dotted rhino with a purple cock – a – too on his back had walked thru the room I could not have been more astounded than I was. The sheer unfairness of it all was breathtaking. Sitting on the bed in that Alabama motel room the only word I could manage to utter was ” What?”
Before anything else could come to mind, the bathroom door opened and the light of my life came out, dry faced and calm. Crossing to the bed, she took off her house shoes, pulled the cover back and slipped between the sheets. In a soft, quiet voice she asked:
” Aren’t you coming to bed?”
I stood there a moment, waiting for the rhino to come thru. When he didn’t, I took my pants back off and crawled carefully into the bed. After a moment, my mate, my love, my mystery, lifted my arm, and folded herself into my side. Kissing me under the chin, she laid her head on my shoulder, said ‘goodnight’, and went straight to sleep.
I lay there thinking for a while. Some profound piece of the puzzle had been shown to me that night and I could not quite get my mind around it.
I slept and dreamed of the long, high bridge over the Mississippi and rhinos going back and forth over the river.