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Twin Bed

February 3, 2006

All winter long, I keep the thermostat turned down as low as possible to conserve oil. I dress like a homeless person – overcoat, knit cap, fingerless gloves to permit typing. The cold creeps in around doors and windows: ah, what healthy air, I tell myself. No need to worry about the build-up of air-borne toxins from carpet out-gassing in this old cottage.

By nine-thirty or ten at night, the warming effect of a full belly has begun to wear off, and the cold begins to insinuate itself through the five layers of clothing on my upper body and the jeans and thermal underwear below. My fingers slowly grow numb. But how handy, really, to have something like this compelling me go to bed on time! Otherwise my book might tempt me to stay up too late.

So the thermostat gets turned down even lower – Take that, President Cheney! – and I change into bedclothes and crawl under a heavy pile of blankets and quilts. It’s a little difficult to turn over, but really, all that tossing and turning I do in the warmer months isn’t good for my back.

I lie in the darkness feeling very snug and secure in my little nest, warming my hands by pressing them against my chest and under my armpits. The contact of cold and warm feels delicious – a thing I’ve enjoyed ever since I was a kid. I had the darkest, coldest bedroom in the house, and grew very acclimated to it over the years. I recall with some nostalgia being small enough to crawl all the way under the covers in my twin bed, where I’d thrust my bare feet into the coldest corners. The initial bite of cold would send shivers down my spine.

When there were no more cold pockets to explore, sometimes I’d turn around and around under the covers until I could no longer remember which end of the bed was which, like a turtle lost in its own shell. Then I’d stop and lie still, trying to guess, and poke my head tentatively toward where I thought the pillow should be.

It was wonderful to be wrong: I’d savor the feeling of disorientation as long as I could. The room and everything beyond it would slowly pivot back into place, but for one long moment I’d feel myself cut loose from my moorings, like a spaceship drifting near absolute zero, free from the influence of any local star.

Written by Dave Bonta of Via Negativa.

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  1. February 5, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    Um, electric bedpad, Dave.

    Sorry, being flip. Lovely bit of writing, making being chilled sort of romatic is a skill. Especially for another child with the coldest bedroom.

  2. Bill
    February 6, 2006 at 9:12 am

    I’ve been cold in Pennsylvania, in January, ’78 on my way to transfer to an eastern university. I drove out with some grade school friends with whom I had barely stayed in touch, who happened to be going to an uninsulated lake-side cabin with a small pot-belly wood stove in central, I have no idea where, PA. It was more or less on the way east for me, they went back west to Missouri. I’m thinking the the daytime high was in the low teens. I pretended to read Levi-Strauss by the stove in the evenings. I can’t remember what shivering reading I might have tried to do in the bed upstairs, clothed and under six inches of bedding material. Perhaps something magical about a fractal universe. I certainly tried to read of a morning, uncomfortable from laying in two pairs of pants and a coat, both hot and cold, yet not wanting to stir from bed into the air and to the painful task of putting on shoes. I probably had my shoes in bed with me at some point. Several days later I was alone in a stone dormitory looking through lead work glass onto a snowy quadrangle, waiting for winter break to be over, my room-mates to arrive, and school to begin.

    Word of the moment: imbricate, partly hidden, partly showing.

  3. February 6, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    I just keep thinking about this one, and perhaps because it is so much about the sense of touch, I keep coming up wordless. It’s a wonderful, terse piece of writing, Dave, very evocative, and brings me back to my own childhood. I still like getting all the way under the covers, like a tent; seeing the filtered light from inside there, and feeling hidden once again, if only for a few fantasy moments.

  4. February 7, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Vivid, not visceral but approaching that, the life pulse in the cold. I can’t bear to be cold, and in the winter usually wrap up in fleece blankets sari-like no matter what I’m doing, cooking, reading, writing, talking. The body in this piece, you describe so vividly the layers of clothing, the sensation of the body pitted against an encroaching frozeness, and the weightlessness, and memories of under the covers as if crawling through one of those ‘worm-holes’ that take you to other parts of the universe, swoosh, as a child. Like, get a wood-burning stove I want to say.

  5. February 9, 2006 at 7:25 am

    Thanks for the comments. I do hope you’re each preparing your own submissions, as well…

    Zhoen – “another child with the coldest bedroom”
    So THAT’S what it is! Next you’ll be telling me you were a middle child, as well.

    Bill – “Imbricate” is a bitchin’ word. I’ll be sure to start deploying it at every opportunity.

    I’m sorry Central PA was so cold to you. Really, it’s different now, thanks to Global Warming. We hardly get a winter anymore.

    Beth – “I still like getting all the way under the covers, like a tent”
    I probably would too, if I slept in the big double bed downstairs, but I like to keep that room spic-and-span for my occasional guests. Plus, it’s warmer upstairs – the ceiling is only six and a half feet.

    Brenda – “I can’t bear to be cold”
    It helps to have a masochistic streak.

    “get a wood-burning stove”
    Have a wood-burning stove. Stopped using it except as back-up when the power fails. Too much heat makes me sleepy and dull-witted. Plus, unless you get a high-tech one with a catlytic converter, woodburners are terribly polluting.

  6. February 9, 2006 at 7:29 am

    Bill – Reading your comment again, I strongly suspect that it was Levi-Strauss that so chilled you. Structuralism doesn’t have a whole lot of heart.

  7. February 11, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    No, I was the baby, the only girl. The coldest room was a converted upstairs bathroom, slanted ceiling, not completely closed to the outside. Birds occasionally got in.
    I would squidge down to the bottom of the bed to bunch up the blankets more. Cheap, old flannel sheets felt terrible, but provided the entertainment of bright flashes of shocks. The red wool blanket was brought out for me if I was ill, a ponderous weight I imbued with magical powers of healing.

  8. February 15, 2006 at 10:37 am

    What images! Beginning with you at the computer, dressed like a homeless person with hat and fingerless gloves, and ending with
    that healing red blanket–great, great stuff, Dave.

  9. March 4, 2006 at 1:20 am

    this is wonderful, dave. i feel like i’m there with you. as a matter of fact, as a child i hated the cold, but now i can appreciate it, poking around to find a cold pocket. and i always did enjoy lying in bed at an odd angle, and still do. thanks for bringing my attention to this experience so sharply.

  10. March 7, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Oh lovely. I feel back in my little girls bed with the brown butterflies. You’re good at this.

  11. March 17, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    This is wonderful, Dave, start to finish.

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