By Dan Haag
Marriage is a wonderful thing, the uniting of two souls under the banner of love and partnership. For me, it is a joy to behold an older couple smiling contentedly and walking hand-in-hand on the beach or at the store. You can see the decades of shared, cherished memories on their faces.
In those moments, I pause for reflection and remember that as a married man, that is what I strive for: a lifetime of shared love and lasting joy.
Almost immediately after that thought, a second one pushes its way forward: how the hell did they survive each others sleep habits for so long?
I am married to a sleep assassin, a woman whom I love dearly but who tries to kill me in the middle of the night at least two or three times a week. Her repertoire of nocturnal mixed-martial arts would make Bruce Lee jealous, especially since she does them all while sleeping.
I often go to bed unblemished only to awaken the next morning battered and bruised like I’d served as a crash test dummy. People will ask me why I’m limping and I offer some lame excuse like “sports injury.” I’m sure anyone who knows me can see through this blatant lie: the closest I’ve ever gotten to a sports injury was losing the remote control while watching a televised baseball game and getting my hand stuck in the couch cushions during the ensuing search.
Still, “sports injury” sounds better than “spouse related sleep injury.”
I can’t point to any specific time when this started happening. During the first few years of sleeping in the same bed, all was calm and restful. Now, I spend my waking hours researching the best brands in mouth guards and padded helmets.
It’s not like I’m violating any of the unwritten bedtime rules, like crossing over into the DMZ that is her side of the bed or stealing a pillow. There’s just no pattern to her attacks, nothing that helps me prepare for getting under the covers. One night, all will be calm and then suddenly – WHAM – a sharp, sudden kick to my knee, like someone has touched her with a live current. The next night, I’ll be drifting off to sleep and then – POW – an elbow to the middle of my spine. Each time, she sighs and continues snoring contentedly while I writhe next to her in pain.
The worst ones are when I wake up in the middle of the night and find her gone. The house is hushed, no lights are on, and the hum of the refrigerator is the only sound. I pad quietly down the hall, wondering where she went: not in the bathroom, not watching TV, not in the kitchen. I begin to feel ridiculously like Clouseau searching for an imminent attack from Kato.
Defeated, I turn back down the hallway towards the bedroom… and find her standing right behind me. “What are you doing lurking around this late???” she demands loudly enough for most of Tillamook and Clatsop counties to hear. I struggle to answer through the multiple heart attacks that are coursing through my system.
I’ve tried to reason with her about all of this, but her defense is always rock solid: “I didn’t mean to do it, I was asleep.” I may have been imagining things, but a small smile always seems to tug at the corner of her mouth. It is, after all, a rock-solid alibi, the sleep-time equivalent of diplomatic immunity.
Usually she’ll deflect by pointing out the things I do when I’m asleep and remind me there is a reason that I can’t eat garlic before bedtime anymore, which is hardly the point of this column.
As with many things in life, it’s good to look for the silver lining: you were late leaving for work, but it made you miss a traffic accident, that sort of thing.
Me? I don’t ever have to spend a dime on fancy home security systems because the person who breaks into my house probably deserves more pity than scorn.