Story: Sibling Solace
By: William T. Hathaway
When my wife and I were first married, not so very long ago, we slept in a queen-sized bed. It was our cocoon from the world, where we snuggled and dreamed together.
After a while she found it too small, so we bought a king-sized, a great sprawl of latex upon which we frolicked. The mattress was hard, so we cushioned it with a fleecy pad of sheep’s wool, soft and fluffy under us. We had to reach farther to find each other, but we were still there, our breaths and dreams and murmured rollings intertwined.
Then she wanted twin beds. We could either keep them together, or when she felt the urge to sleep alone, we could push them apart, and she would have her own space. Something inside me tore but I ignored it, thinking her good night’s sleep is important.
At first the beds stayed mostly together, the pad covering the hard edges where the frames met. Then she wished them more often apart. I slept on the pad doubled over, the extra softness not making up for what I missed.
“Each person should breathe their own air when they sleep,” she quoted a Buddhist monk. Separate bedrooms would be more restful. I could come to visit whenever I wanted.
“Do I snore … or reek?” I asked, feeling another rip.
“No, dear, I just need my own room.”
To make it fair, we would split the mattress pad. Now we could each have our half. Knowing you can’t force a person to want to be with you, I spread the thick fleece out, measured to the middle, and took our largest scissors, assuming it would be difficult to cut. Down the length ran a dividing seam I’d never noticed before. As I sheared along it to separate our nights, I found it took no great effort. Thread by thread, it came apart so easily.
My sister married a drunk. He wasn’t a drunk when she married him but a fun-loving guy who liked to party. By turning his life into a party, he ended up being just a drunk.
He’s not a monster; he doesn’t beat her or the kids, he holds onto his job, but there’s always this fuzz of alcohol around him. He’s hidden so deep underneath it that no one can get to him. He’s not really here but in his own world, a ship in a rum bottle, sailing nowhere.
Unlike me, she wishes they had separate beds — the odor. He’s often impotent from the booze, but he blames her. Although unhappy and frustrated, she wants to stay together because of the kids.
My sis and I have always been able to communicate well, so we got together often to talk. It helped to have a kindred soul to share our problems. We cried, got angry, commiserated.
We’d both discovered how difficult it is to find love in this world, so we became grateful to have each other, to love each other as brother and sister. Gradually we came to feel why only as brother and sister, why not really have each other? What else were we getting out of life?
So we ended up in bed. We liked it … and still do. It makes it easier for us put up with our situations. We can enjoy a brief regression back into childhood, to a happier time when we still had illusions about what life was like. Taking this bit of revenge on our spouses enables us to stay with them.
Stacy and I make love about once a week. It helps us … and help is hard to come by in this world.
William T. Hathaway’s first novel, A World of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award. His new one, Lila, the Revolutionary, is the story of an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. He was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.