Sleeping alone, again
I don’t remember when I learned to sleep alone, but I do know when I re-learned.
It was at the end of my sophomore year of college, and the end of the longest and most serious romantic relationship I’ve had to date. I was in that crazy kind of love with this girl, the kind where a person can make you do whatever they want you to and you really don’t even think about it, and you put being with and around them above pretty much everything else. We’d been very close, this girl and me, and we slept together almost every night. Definitely every night toward the end, when she was sort of flying off the handle and had practically moved into my tiny bedroom after a fight with her roommates.
The relationship ended very abruptly at 4 a.m. some Friday morning, and I wasn’t having an easy time with it. I’d spent a couple nights at my friend’s house in the days immediately following, because I would get too drunk to leave and pass out on a futon or a couch. The third night, I slept on the couch in my apartment and kept the TV on, just because I didn’t think I could sleep in my bed without her. Then, the next night, I decided to quit being so melodramatic about it. I went into the room, stripped it of the sheets and threw them out. I sprayed Febreze on the mattress – anything to get her scent out of my fucking bed – and put a fresh set of sheets on.
I turned out the light, took a deep breath and crawled in. I laid there on my back and looked at the ceiling. I realized I was sleeping on the outside of the bed, the side closest to the door, and I shifted to the middle. I no longer had to divide this bed in two. This was my bed again now, and I could take up all the room I wanted. I spread my legs out and threw my arms back until they hit the wall, then I put them back down and let them stretch to the side. It was as if I were attempting to making snow angels or something.
I remembered then that I actually like sleeping alone. Somehow, the enjoyment of this had gone fleeing from my consciousness as soon as this girl stormed her way in and took over. I’d spent the better part of the last year telling myself I liked cuddling and feeling another person’s body heat on me when I was trying to fall asleep. I told myself it was comforting. I told myself It was OK when she would keep me up late into the night when I had an early class and work the next day, because her issues and our discussion of them were paramount to me. It was OK that she always demanded an extra blanket or pillow or both, and that some nights she would get pissed for no reason, roll over and sack out until the next morning, while I laid there with this stomach-level trepidation because I thought maybe she wouldn’t like me as much the next morning as she had the morning before.
That night, though, I felt kind of peaceful. Maybe for the first time in a few months, and definitely for the first time in a few days. I just pulled the comforter up and rolled over so I was facing the wall, where she used to always be. Now it was just space. The sheets were nice and cool, and contained no body heat beside my own.
Something was missing, though; something I used to be virtually unable to sleep without, but had adapted to never sleeping with since she had taken residence in my bed.
I hopped up and crossed the dark room to the fan perched on my dresser that hadn’t been on for months. She couldn’t sleep with it on. (Me? I loved sleeping with a fan on, and had been doing so every night for as long as I could remember until her. I liked the noise; it was noise of nothing, and it soothed me.) I turned the dial to the highest setting, an returned to my bed. That was the moment when I realized that I would be two things: alone, but also fine.