The bed I would sleep best in doesn’t exist yet. Somewhere there’s an old four-poster waiting for me, waiting for my hands to come along and strip off layers of paint and varnish, sand out the nicks and scratches, and brush on coats of sea-foam green and morning glories entwining the four posts rising toward my dreams. My sleep would flower there. And then my dreams would settle and cease skipping across the surface of no-sleep. They would sink into my pillow and nestle roots into the feathers. Then I would find my home.

But that bed hasn’t called me yet. So my sleep follows my wayward head from bed to bed, from pillow to pillow. My name is Sandra, and I’m what some would call a young woman of loose moral fiber. Some might be less kind and call me a whore, but that wouldn’t be true, because I don’t get paid. I give myself away. Truth is, I’m searching for my bed. And I’m happy to find a place to sleep, any place, whenever I can.

There are those men who won’t even let me sleep in their beds when they’re done doing whatever it is they need to do with me. I guess a stranger in their bed would keep them from sleeping. I don’t know. I just know those are the worst nights, wandering the streets, laying my head down, if anywhere, on my bunched-up jacket or a folded newspaper. I wake up a mess, but I’m glad to wake up at all. Those nights I know I’m lucky to survive without someone sticking a knife in my ribs for whatever they think I might have in my pockets. Or sticking something else in me for fun.

Those nights sometimes I don’t lay my head down at all, but just walk up one street and down the next, remembering my mother and her lace curtains, the way her fingers looked as they curled her long, shiny red hair, the curve of her lips as she pursed them to spread and smooth her lipstick. And my father in the doorway, asking where she was going. Or I remember my brother and his hands, sneaking into my bedroom at night, sneaking beneath the covers of my bed, my nightclothes. And then I try not to remember. And I don’t wonder why I can’t sleep.

Sometimes, when a man is of the other kind, the nice kind, he’ll let me spend the night, and in the morning I can have a shower or a hot, bubbly bath, and maybe even breakfast. There was this one man, Phil, I think his last name was Zimmerman. He let me stay for a whole week. He had a great house, on the side of a mountain. He took me out there in his truck. We drove for what seemed like hours on an unlit road. The stars shone down so bright, I could spot the constellations. The Big Dipper looked like it was overflowing with wine. I drank it.

We got to his place and his dog met us at the end of the driveway. I guess in that big silence he could hear the engine coming from a mile away. He left the dog to sleep on the front porch. We went inside.

“Can I get you something to drink? Some dinner?” he asked me. Before I could answer, he crossed the tile floor to his kitchen. His boots made a pleasant clump-clump-clumping in the room I couldn’t see.

“Sure. Whatever you’re having,” I answered. I didn’t want to impose, you know. A little while later he came out with a platter of cheese and berries–strawberries, blackberries, and some round yellow things with two large seeds and a sweet tart flesh that made my mouth pucker and my eyes water. I washed it down with the red wine he offered.

“Japanese plums.” His eyes smiled. I could barely see his mouth for his beard.

That night I slept better than I had in a year. His bed was big and soft and heaped with pillows and blankets. The wind coming up the mountain sang lullabies in the trees. In the morning I woke up and the sun was streaming through the bare windows, and I could see pines and sycamores standing like sentinels over my sleep. I could hear him rustling around in the kitchen. There was a towel and washcloth over a chair by the bed and a bunch of wildflowers he must have picked that morning.

I don’t know why I left when the week ended. He didn’t ask me to. I guess I wasn’t comfortable with so much happiness, that amazing sense of safety. Or maybe my true bed was calling me. Phil didn’t ask any questions, just drove me into town and gave me a sandwich and some plums in a paper bag. On bad nights I sometimes wish I’d stayed, and wonder what he’s doing now, if his dog gets to sleep at the foot of that great bed, if he ever wonders about me.


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Published in: on August 28, 2006 at 1:13 pm  Comments Off on