One sheep. Two sheep. Three sheep, four. Normally I’m tired enough every day where I fall asleep not too long after my head touches the pillow, but tonight was one of those nights where my brain wouldn’t allow for it. So instead, I rolled over and (resentfully) watched you sleep peacefully next to me.
A memory dawned on me while I watched you lay there, and I couldn’t help but smile (this scene I’ve painted makes me look a little maniacal, doesn’t it?).
I closed my eyes and thought about all of the nights we spent sleeping next to each other in our Harvard dorm rooms (sorry Mom and Dad) in those merciless twin beds. I practically burst out laughing just thinking about it: me plastered up against the wall adjacent to the bed, trying to give your broad swimmer shoulders the room they needed (and consequently squishing my own, arguably broader swimmer shoulders). I remember trying to coax myself into sleep, anxiously watching the clock count down the minutes until 6:30 AM practice. And try as I did to fall asleep, I couldn’t. I was too excited to be next to you...and let’s be honest, I was sleeping in what was essentially the wall’s butt crack.
As brutal as those sleeping arrangements were, I loved being an undergraduate with you. I guess it helped that we “upgraded” to a queen bed your senior year (my junior year). That’s code for: we pushed two twin beds together, slapped a queen sheet set on them, and called it a day. I loved being an undergraduate with you so much that when you graduated, I pathetically found a spot in Harvard Yard and cried by myself. Not because I thought we weren’t going to make it as a couple—I mean, you found a job and an apartment that were both miraculously half a mile away from my dorm—but because I was going to miss the couple that was us. The us that did a crossword puzzle in the dining hall to distract us from finals, the us that took post-morning-swim-practice naps, the us that put way too many toppings on our dining hall “Sunday Sundaes” every week. It felt like a break up, even though it wasn’t.
It actually ended up being more like a break-in. Real life creeped its way into our relationship, stealthily sneaking in through the side door. It took your swimming career, and shortly thereafter took mine. It emptied our drawers and turned things inside out, forcing us to take inventory of what remained and to ask ourselves: who were we now?
Well, it felt like we were a couple who fought…a lot. We often found ourselves stepping around the clutter left from the break-in, occasionally lashing out over the untidiness we now found ourselves in.
It wasn’t (and isn’t) easy, but I’ve learned a lot from the break-in. I learned that love cleans up. Love restores order and fixes broken locks and picks up shattered glass. It certainly doesn’t do so without some frustration and a sore back, but in the end, love does the job.
How do I know this? Because every Sunday morning you go grocery shopping and make sure I have enough “emergency chocolate” for the week. Because you rub my back despite the fact I annoyingly ask you every single night. Because you immediately drove to pick me up when I was stranded on the road during a run plagued by blistering shin splints. Because you drew me a terrible doodle of yourself apologizing to me after a fight. Because when I couldn’t sleep when I was sick you sleepily turned over, hugged me, and said “I’m here for you.”
Love cleans up.
I rolled back over, appreciating every inch of my side of our queen bed, and my eyes fluttered shut. The Story of Us danced on the backs of my eyelids like a vintage film, and I drifted off to sleep. Thank you for being my favorite story, Danny.