If I want bread in this household, I have to go to my wife’s bed. I don’t mean to imply an economy of sex for grains, because that’s not the case. I simply mean that if I want bread, whether for a sandwich or a side dish or a piece of toast, I need to go rooting around in the mound of blankets and sheets where she sleeps.
Jess and I have had separate bedrooms since we moved in together, not because we fight, but because we sleep differently. I get up early and she sleeps in late. I like to walk the dog, have coffee, and read before I leave the house. She likes to scramble sleepy-eyed into her boots and coat, curly brown hair flickering in full frizz, giving new meaning to the phrase “fashionably late.” Our house is actually divided in half by a strategically placed baby gate. We have no children, so she prefers calling it a pet gate. The front half has been designated a refuge for the feline and feminine, a quiet space for her and the cat to work and snooze. The back half is for me and the dog to make noise and live amongst the hairballs.
I wouldn’t say that Jess is technically an insomniac, but she does wake up after every REM cycle. And I don’t mean that she simply opens her eyes and then goes back to sleep. I mean that, every ninety minutes, she wakes up hungry, stumbles daintily past the pet gate, into the kitchen, and back to her bed with a box of crackers or a loaf of something. That’s another reason we maintain separate sleeping spaces: the chewing. It always woke me up. When Jess was in college and shared a dorm room, she used to grab a box of crackers and go eat in the hall so as not to disturb her roommate.
Still, the benefits of having separate rooms extend beyond the dream world. We are both writers, both graduate students, and we both appreciate having a space wholly our own. Jess’s study is decorated with paintings from our semi-regular art nights and my room is a little more simplistic in its design. Jess puckers her nose at my room’s entrance and says it smells like Fritos, which makes my dog lift his head up and sigh. I can hear her music playing down the hall, along with her frantic dancing spurts that help shake out the writer’s block.
Sometimes we get busy with our own schedules. We lose ourselves in teaching and grading papers. I work out in the morning, and she goes to the gym in the afternoon. We get tired. I wake up in the middle of the night spooning the dog, the faint sound of a toilet flushing and tiny feet tiptoeing back to bed echoing down the hall. When I do hear the latch of the pet gate lift, the squeak of the hinges, I feel excited.
I don’t know if Jess or I will ever be the type of couple that shares a bed. After particularly long or draining weeks, we do get nostalgic and fall asleep on the same pillow, but she usually nudges me awake minutes later to whisper in my ear, “Babe, babe. You’re snoring.”
In the morning is when I notice just how quiet the house really is. I wake up hungry. I try not to disturb her with my fumbling in the kitchen, searching through the refrigerator and the cabinet for something to eat until I realize that our only loaf of bread is clutched close to her chest. Then I unlatch the gate and sneak back to her room, to her bed. Maybe I just do it as an excuse, but without fail, she pulls me beneath the sheets, amongst the crumbs, and I find that I’m suddenly not so hungry anymore.