TRY AND COMFORTER
I thought of bed today. I’ve thought of bed often lately, the old dear specific bed in past particulars; I made sleeping shirts from some of its old sheets. I’ve been wearing them like hand-me-downs, almost without thought, almost accidentally. It isn’t necessarily that I like or love them, but they soothe me. They cover me and lay on me how I like my own real t-shirts to hang and drape, as well. My own real favorite shirts, and my old dear bed homespun ones.
The songs of bed are always tragedies. This is because dawn, inevitable, interrupts. The sun rises. Bells sound. People - all the ones of us - must peel off our cozy second skins, nests which night so tirelessly built us while we lay sleeping. I say peel and mean literally: I say peel and see a silver kitchen tool with razor edges. They pull through carrots viscerally. The blades deglove, divorce, scalp: sweet and dark and edible skin shaved off sweet and bright edible flesh like the two are distinct and separate.
We all agree how wonderful bed is, out of it. But that is the irony. Be serious. Try to maintain your enclave for an extra half a day, or linger as briefly as two additional hours — and all of a sudden, no one has one thing to say to you, no hi, no hello, no beautiful morning, isn’t it, I like your haircut, and good-day. All they have are accusations: are you sick? what’s wrong with you? don’t be lazy! Some faceless whisper from the background: could it be depression?
There’s a truth no one knows about bed but I know it and I will share it. When you lie in there, warm, and held, safe, and vulnerable at last - do you even know how it feels to be vulnerable right now, Mr. Fully Dressed Stranger in the Crisp Suit and the Shoes which you Polished with your Lunch and your Wallet and Briefcase gathered around you, ordered, clipped, zipped and snapped in each proper place to armor you? You have no conception.
There’s this feeling you get, lying there in bed. It’s not an illusion. It’s not self-indulgence for indolence’s sake. Bed is better than the world’s best steak. Better than the best steak the world has to offer — better than honey in heaven.
We forget this every day in seconds, like women forget the true pain of birth. There is the old myth of Orpheus; it befits bed is its opposite. We’re united when my eyes are focused on you. But with my one distracted glance you disappear from me entirely. Return, stand in the crowd, I would look over you. This is our curse.
Walk up to me.
I cannot recognize what I no longer know.
I love you with my vision.
Bed, my bed, here is how I loved you, or at least what for — bed, here is who you once are, now were, to me.
I went to my bedroom and there you always were. Nights I didn’t come to you and sleep, you maybe called, but said no word - not one - ever - when I didn’t pick up or respond. I practice erratic sleep patterns; I do not when I want for sometimes nights and days, while sometimes I sway the other way to make up for it, candle at both ends and so on, so they say. And with you I was free and I could. I could. I was free. How can you call freedom a better word? How can I describe it?
I always returned. It was never much more than three days, three and a half, maybe, before I broke through the wall of insomnia again.
Mostly I was quiet when I was with you. I preferred to listen to your illimitable joyous stream of talk. When I grew up, our kitchen overlooked the creek through our yard and we could see the perpendicular bank of the bigger current and watch that magical area of wet green while life, outdoors life, absorbed and moved and breathed. I could witness it for hours. This replenished better than ice water. Not always, but always-almost-almost, the cascade of your voice gave me, or brought out in me, that same swell and perdurance. You spoke, and I rested.
Of course, there were rare times when I stirred and threw out little fussings in flashes which, through bright, were also brief and small. Every time when I did you would not only stop your rill at once, but then act (again, not only) as if you cared to listen but also more: in a serious manner you tuned in like whatever I had to say, in my rare impassioned and quite lengthy righteous vocal opinion prepared to launch, carried with it such gravitas as that could be right about the theory of the entire world. Like my nonsense babble could actually be, was established for you indubitably as spine-straighteningly and knuckle-crackingly important to hear, this while I was spraying out words with the excitement of bubble-foam expanding over itself to fineline every detail of my alternative theory for the true meaning of the ending of the horror movie Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back, which I love and had just finished forcing you to watch in gory improbable bonus scene glory for the first time ever that evening.
How could I not love that flattery?
We ask mothers how labor was. They say, “You know, it wasn’t that bad, really.” We are sane. We recognize lies in hearing.
I watched you look at me and then I watched you see me. Why ask what you found so interesting when, no matter whatever answer you could give, a sane me swears would know for lies? A sane me knows I am not so very, very interesting.
A sane me knows I lose continents in a glance. And you, my darling, love - you are merely furnishing.
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I have all you need.”
The bird opened its nest along a hinge, wide, wide, wider enough until a person could walk in. The nest was polished wood inside. The floor was swept clean. There was no fire, but it felt like there was a roaring blaze in a stone hearth ready to warm you up. Outside was cold. Snow was falling.
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I will feed you.”
The bird hopped down a corridor, turned, down another, opened a door, showed you a far wall. One wing pressed, with a flurry, several random spaces. Several hidden compartments, the whole wall among them, rolled their bamboo covers up like mouths. What treasure inside! There were countless berries, endless stocks of seeds. In one square was a dripping hollow reed. In another, packed with straw, loose frozen drops of dew. When was your last meal that wasn’t yellow grass or peeled sapling?
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I will house you.”
The bird showed you a small tower room. Your name was on the door. The bird said, do whatever you want with it, it’s your space while you live here, in my castle. It was the bird’s castle, after all. The bird had built it. You said sure. It took two weeks and lots of packing, and lots of clever jigsawing, but all your books and clothes and cardboard boxes made it in. The only gift of thanks you made and which the bird accepted was your brand new adjustable cooling temperpedic california-king-size mattress. It went in her bedroom, but you agreed to share.
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I will wrap you up in my fun things.”
Moving in you messed up: a chair leg scratched on a wall and left a scratch and gave the bird a fit. After you confessed and cried, apologized and cried the bird gave you half an hour to yourself. You had swollen eyes. Then the bird knocked on your door. The bird knocked on your door. The bird knocked and you never thought it was a woodpecker before but now you wondered. Through your door the bird said well? aren’t you coming to the party? the one at six thrown by my friends you’ve never met yet? You said, you said, you said. You said I think I’ll pass.
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I will give you everything I want.”
When your pet aphid made a nest of bark ends in the bird’s mudroom the bird came to you, quite upset. I want that bark swept up, it’s a mess, the bird began. It’s everywhere on the floor. The besmirched floor in question was rough daub and dung. That was the raw room of the house. It was mostly storage and shed feathers. The bird used it as a clean-off room when there was rain and her feathers were particularly bedraggled and she didn’t want to track mud through the halls. That day, you cleaned up Aphie’s bed. The next, the bird said I don’t like how Aphie trails after me in the mornings. Aphids’ favorite game to play is follow the leader. You bit your tongue and thought, nothing to say. Nothing to say.
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I have all this; you are much less.”
The bird refused to discuss anything personal it didn’t like about itself. The bird peed on your mattress and never once acknowledged it. The bird began to feed you writhing worms and pearly maggots in the third week of your residence. Before you dined on dandelion greens, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds. An occasional rosehip or dried blackberry. When you said, here’s a change of menu, the bird asked what do you mean? I’ve always eaten these. You said, it’s alive?
“Come with me,” the bird said, “I am better than you in every way.”
You said, bird, you don’t know me much at all. You packed everything one morning while the bird flew out and around on its unnamed but top-priority errands like it did every day. As if to stress its wings. You have marrow bones. What little you and Aphie couldn’t wrangle out in those four hours was abandoned with Lot’s finality, not Lot’s wife’s. Aphie hoped, but you were certain there was no return here. Last night the bird had preened in bed beside you and asked see, how much better is your life when I make it? You would not leave any return.
Today you took a can of black spraypaint against her polished walls and said, bitch, this ain’t so great as I can’t do it better.
“Come with me,” you said to Aphie. “I love you, and I am immense, and unknown.”
About the Author: E. H. Brogan is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a B.A. in English. You can read her poetry at places like Cider Press Review, Bop Dead City, FLAPPERHOUSE, the Sandy River Review, and Red Paint Hill. You can read her prose in PRIMITIVE magazine. Her house is built of unread books, and she pronounces it REE-see’s PEE-sees. Tweet @wheresmsbrogan for more.