Let me show you the guest room
Since I started the new medication, my sleep has not been the escape it once was. The first few hours I toss about, constantly adjusting my pillow, my legs won’t be still, and my eyes open and close leaving me to wonder if what’s in my mind came from sleep or awake. The normally refreshing deeper sleep of early morning brings the most troubling dreams. I’m recording this one now, before the memory of it gives way to my anxiety from not remembering the most important things.
After a leadup of which I have no solid recall, I found myself standing facing Jeff’s wife in her kitchen. When I looked at her, she smiled warmly while she held my gaze confidently. She’s quite beautiful. I was the first to break eye contact. It reminded me of two cats in a stare down, when one drops her eyes and rolls onto her back to expose her vulnerable belly in total submission to the alpha.
My eyes traveled down and rested at her waist. She was a substantial woman, certainly not fat, but not thin either. She’d lost weight. Her body was as firm as her presence was stoic.
“You’ve lost weight,” I said, realizing it probably wasn’t wise to let on I noticed, since the only way I could have noticed was by comparing her to her social media pictures.
“Yes, about thirty pounds I think,” she responded, still smiling warmly.
Thirty pounds is exactly the number of pounds I’ve obsessed about having gained since I left Louisville. I hate that my friends will see me at my heaviest in well over a decade. But I haven’t hated it enough to do anything about it in the many months leading up to the trip.
Jeff wasn’t there. I don’t know how I knew that I just knew that. It was comforting to know I wouldn’t see Jeff in her house. I don’t know if I could have managed that. I wonder now, if when heading into such a dream, we negotiate the boundaries with our subconscious prior, so the events that playout don’t destroy us.
“Let me show you to the guest room,” Jeff’s wife said, gesturing for me to walk ahead. I don’t like to walk ahead. I don’t like people to see my massive backside moving from side to side, as a I waddle down the way before them. But I did exactly as she directed.
At the end of a long hall, we arrived in a large utility room. A beautifully made-up daybed was against the wall opposite the washer and dryer. The sheets peeking out from the faded red toile comforter were trimmed in antique ecru lace.
“It’s beautiful,” I said. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome,” Jeff’s wife responded. “Let me know if you need anything else. I’ll be in the kitchen for a bit before I go to bed.”
I smiled at her, again having difficulty holding her gaze for more than a couple of seconds. She held her place, continuing to smile firmly even when I turned from her to put my things on the bed. Finally, I heard her confident footsteps receding as she walked out of the room and away down the hall.
I sat on the bed and surveyed the room. I wondered why it didn’t trouble me to be relegated to the laundry. I thought it might be because the bed had been so lovingly decorated in antique French linens, the luxuriousness of which made me smile and gave me great comfort. Writing this now, I recognize the linens are the same as those that decorate my bed.
In the morning, I got up and gathered my things. I’d never removed my clothing, so I didn’t need to dress. I wasn’t in a rush, but my actions were deliberately efficient so I could finish readying to leave in the briefest time possible.
I stepped out the back door into the garage. I left the door unlocked behind me, unsure of whether I’d be coming back in. I hadn’t said goodbye to Jeff’s wife, and thought perhaps I should. But I didn’t want to wake Jeff’s wife.
Three of my online men friends were in the driveway, leaning against the cars, engaged in animated conversation. They were happy to see me, warm hugs all around. We talked for a bit, about what we’d do that evening. We decided on burlesque at the Limbo. It was unanimous. Then I realized I hadn’t stripped the bed.
I walked back in through the garage and opened the door to the utility room. The day bed was completely stripped, and the sheets were in the washer. The comforter shook violently on top of the agitating machine. I flushed with guilt at not having remembered to do this myself.
Then, a tremendous wave of shame followed, as I realized Jeff’s wife saw my being there as having soiled her home. I knew this already, though, and the intense shame receded, giving way to the familiar heaviness of regret I’d come to accept as part of who I am the last year.
That weight of regret returned to its home at the base of my stomach, and I sighed in resignation as I left Jeff’s wife’s house for the final time and walked out to the driveway to join my friends.
[Written 7/5/2021, originally published 7/24/2022.]