As she took the marble-sized ball of green Play-Doh from the plastic sandwich bag and rolled it into a soft cone shape, she muttered, “What kind of crazy woman puts Play-Doh in her ears every night.”
Lena reached over her head with her right hand, pulled the top of her left ear out, thereby increasing the possibility of a good seal. She positioned the cone into her ear canal and pressed down hard with her index finger. A woman whose husband makes more noise than a one man band, all night, every night, that’s who, Lena thought, as she pushed another green cone into her right ear.
She’d met Davis online. After three months of increasingly affectionate correspondence, they had arranged to meet. Davis, a writer, had been living in the Arizona desert for several years and had grown to hate leathered skin, Armani slip dresses and turquoise. He was planning to visit his daughter in Texas and then head east to look for a spot with an ocean breeze in which to write. They would meet in between the daughter and the ocean.
Davis rang the bell at her front door on a Friday afternoon, intending to stay three days. Lena opened the door and they fell in love. Two weeks after he appeared, he returned to the southwest to collect his belongings, and was back in Ohio in ten days. At fifty-something, they did not feel the need to wait any prerequisite time to satisfy some convention or another. They married four days after his homecoming.
That was six months ago. Lena had not had a decent night’s sleep since he moved in. This torment perpetuated on a woman whose idea of heaven was a sumptuous bedroom. Draperies drawn against whatever celestial light existed, a top of the line king-size bed swathed in expensive Egyptian cotton linens, cool to the touch.
“Sleep until you are no longer tired, my daughter,” God would intone, basso profundo. “When you wake there will be fine food, excellent wine and intelligent conversation. Return to your sleeping chamber whenever you wish, stay there as long as you like.” That’s how much sleeping well meant to Lena.
Of course, she learned right away that Davis snored. Her previous husband had also been a vociferous nighttime noisemaker. She grew used to poking him into silence without waking. However, she was not aware, until Davis settled in, that his nights were a continual calliope of snorts, wheezes, gasps, grunts and whistles -- in several different keys, no less. He also kicked his feet, carried on unintelligible, obstreperous arguments with the unseen and stopped breathing on occasion.
“Will this bother you”? Davis asked with genuine concerned.
“We’ll work it out,” Lena replied. This was the man she had been waiting for all her life. He was intelligent, gentle, and she adored him. She would adjust.
During the past six months Lena had read every online article in existence about earplugs. Many opened boxes of foam, silicon and soft plastic plugs filled her nightstand drawer. If they can send a man to the moon, for God’s sake, why couldn’t they invent a total sound-deafening earplug?
Lena got the idea for the Play-Doh from digging it out of her grandson’s ears after an afternoon of snake making. Peter pushed the tacky stuff into his ears and smiled a semi-toothed smile as she commanded,
“Grandmother wants you to take that out of your ears right now! Peter, do as I say. Peter? Do you hear me”?
Why not? She thought. The Play-Doh ended up in the nightstand drawer.
Davis finally admitted he had been diagnosed with a severe sleep disorder several years ago. He was told it was not something a nip here and a tuck there could correct. The only solution appeared to be an oxygen mask device, which Davis refused to wear.
“It makes me look like Hannibal Lecter and feel like I’m in an airplane that’s going down,” he grumbled. “I’d never get to sleep with that damned contraption on.”
“Did you actually try it?”
“For about thirty minutes. That was all I could take.”
She wondered how much she could take.
In what seemed a most bizarre response to his nights of cacophony, Davis woke each morning, before his alarm went off at five, claiming to feel refreshed and ready for the day. Lena rolled over and prayed for death.
All her dogged research yielded no new miracle cure. She tried various sleeping pills, but they made her feel like she spent her daylight hours slogging through sand. She was never quite crisp. Lena began to long intensely for her luxurious nights of effortless sleep.
With the loss of those nights came a small kernel of resentment that sewed itself somewhere not so deep in Lena’s subconscious.
In the beginning, their days together had been blissful. Davis would rise early, write for several hours, and then wake her for breakfast and a walk through one of the area parks. They would spend the afternoons reading or taking in a movie. After a leisurely dinner, Davis retired.
“Early to bed, early to rise, etc.,” he said as he climbed the stairs to their sleeping loft. Their condo had a master bedroom loft, which overlooked the lower level containing the living room, dining area and kitchen. When Lena first moved in, she though of her bedroom as a lovely, over-sized nest. Now she desired only a room with a door that might be closed against Davis and his nighttime circus act. Not likely, since the only other space on the first floor was a small storage room that Davis had appropriated for his office.
As she slept less and less at night she began to sleep longer in the mornings. This meant she stayed up later each night. Davis was not displeased, only somewhat forlorn.
“It’s just that I treasure our time together,” he said. Lena had slept until noon. Then she heard from a friend about a sleep study being done at a nearby hospital.
“Davis, please. I’m sure they would appreciate your participation. You are, after all, a perfect candidate. And who knows, they might be able to select an alternative to the mask. Perhaps a medication is being studied.”
He looked hurt. “As much as I love you, Lena, and appreciate the degree to which my inability to sleep quietly inconveniences you, I cannot and will not take part in some experiment. In case you haven’t noticed, I am neither a guinea pig nor a lab rat.”
Lena, sick with fatigue, allowed the previously planted seedling of resentment to take root and bud.
The next afternoon when she couldn’t stop yawning, Lena decided to sort though some of the boxes still stored in the basement. Anything to stay awake. She unpacked several cartons and was creating throw away, donate and repack zones when she came upon the box that contained the ancient tools given to her by her Grandfather so many years ago. A master carpenter, he had made many of the tools himself. He had explained the purpose of each one and made sure she became skilled in its use. Here was a ball-peen hammer, metal head and wooden handle actually crafted by the old man. Did they still make ball-peen hammers? She wondered aloud. The balance and heft of the old tool was amazing.
As she marveled at the weight of it in her hand, a bud on the fast growing stalk of resentment began to unfurl.
That evening Davis sat in the living room in his favorite chair, feet up, reading a book of short stories, Brahms playing low in the background. Lena perched on the sofa working on a sweater for him, her knitting needles clicking away the hours until bedtime. His bedtime at any rate. When she looked up, he seemed to be drifting off. Poor thing. The long walk he had taken during the afternoon must have really done him in. That combined with the three sleeping tablets she had stirred into his after dinner tea, perhaps.
As Davis began to burble and snort she slipped the old hammer from between the sofa cushions. Once again, she admired the perfection and care that had gone into the crafting of such a thing. Then she stood, her knitting falling from her lap, and walked to the chair where Davis whistled and wheezed. She touched the ball of the hammer, and then gently touched a spot on the left side of her husband’s head. A spot right between the end of his eyebrow and his ear. Not exactly a strike, she thought as she lifted the tool upward. More of a firm, quick tap. Just a little love tap, she smiled and said to herself as she propelled the hammer forward.
Lena sighed and gathered her robe around her as she climbed the stairs to the loft. She was so looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
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Laura, Toucan Editrice
Enjoy, and Viva La Toucan
Laura, Toucan Editrice