I’m eighty-two and I want a bed of my own. My last bed, our marital bed, was bought by the husband for our golden wedding anniversary.
I loved the husband but it was only after he died that I realised that the house was a kind of man cave; hardly surprising when we had three sons – four men in the house for years and years, and just one woman – me: invisible until needed.
Men smell different to us; it’s not necessarily offensive, except, of course, when they fart. When the four of them were at it they had a conspiracy of silence never admitting their stink; they just laughed at my objections. My father had the ‘Man Smell’ and his was a mixture of tweed suits, pipe smoke and bad breath. The husband, near the end, smelt like an old comfortable armchair covered in well worn moquette, plus the slight smell of shoe polish from his habitual brogues and we always laughed at his futile habit of chewing mints to disguise his whisky breath.
The décor, in the man cave, is as drab as a downpour in November. I tried to put a bit of colour into our lives; I gave the boys lovely bright colours in their bedrooms. As they got older they complained that their mates would think they were fairies. You’d think having anything pink within fifty feet was an indication of incipient homosexuality. Bloody rubbish, and I said so, but the husband wasn’t having jolly chintz when he could have brown. Even a footstooll upholstered in William Morris’ ‘Strawberry Thief’ gave him a fit of the Heebie Jeebies.
It’s about ownership. Not just the owning of me as me, but the me that’s expressed through the house. It’s never been ‘my’ house; it’s always been ‘their’ house, or ‘our’ house, but never mine.
I never wanted him forever dead; though God forgive me, there were times when I did. But he is, and now I’ve ordered a double bed of my own; a single divan would make feel that I was in a home. The curtains are ugly but they’ll keep me warm. The red and dark green Axminster carpet will see me out as will the rest of it, especially the endless brown furniture so polished you can see your face in it. I can’t be bothered anymore; I’m too old; it can all stay as it is.
The husband was bigger than me and over the years he’d made a big body-shaped hollow in the old mattress. I’d forgotten that just after he died, I used to sleep in his hollow; it was the nearest I could get to the husband and it fitted me nicely. It was a comfort; he was there but not there.
I’ve now had my new bed for a couple of weeks. But I can’t sleep; there’s no husband hollow to curl up in. I’m cold and lonely. I should have kept that mattress.
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© Phil Cosker 2022
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