“How about your new TV?”
“It’s great. How about your new matrimony? Fold.”
I was playing online Poker with my pal Thomas, locked in constant phone conversation to enhance our meager chances. There were no huge amounts of money at stake, but I was not in a position to lose any, to be honest, so I had lost my cheerfulness about an hour ago, when I had lost twenty with a pair of jacks. Now I played stubbornly on to at least break even.
“Matrimony? Is that jealousy I hear? When was the last time a girl moved in with you, huh? Fold.”
“True. You got a girlfriend, I got a TV. Everyone’s happy.”
I probably went silent a little too long.
“Or not? Fold.”
“Yeah. Well. Fold. Kinda.”
“Man, she’s living how long with you now? Two weeks? And the honeymoon’s already over?”
“Naah, it’s cool. I’m serious.”
He knows me, though.
“No, it isn’t.”
“Maybe, but it’s…” I sighed. “It’s silly, really. I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Yeah, you want to. Ten Ace suited. I’ll call.”
“Fold. Alright, you see, Chrissy and I bought a new bed frame when she moved in, right, because we both hadn’t had one since we moved out of our respective parents’s houses, okay? But, I don’t know if you know that, but new mattresses are really expensive. So we figured, we could just take our old small mattresses and put them side by side on the bedframe, call that, man, he’s hoping for the same flush as you are, and you got the ace.”
I heard Thomas’s familiar groan when his flush came not to fruition and his opponent actually had two pairs all along.
“So we measured our mattresses, and went to IKEA and bought this really cool anthracite frame, and this wedgelike thingamajig which you can press into the gap between the mattresses so that you won’t roll in there, right?”
“You raised? What you got?”
“Pair of Tens.”
“Shouldn’t have. I had the third one.”
“Fuck. Why didn’t you say so?” Of course my raise was called, twice.
“I didn’t want to interrupt your fascinating story about anthropod bedframes.”
“Anthracite. That’s dark grey, like.” I folded on the turn. Naturally, the remaining ten came on the river.
“So we took it all home, and we built the frame, and moved the other furniture around so that it can fit, and we put the mattresses and the wedge thing on it, and a bedsheet, and we were so happy that we finally had a real bed, and…”
“Hold on, hold on, hold. First, I really don’t like the direction this story is taking. Secondly, King nine offsuit?”
“Why are you asking me when you don’t listen? I have nothing, fold. Let me get to the point, man. You know my old mattress, right?”
“Yeah. It’s noisy. I’ll call.”
“Whatever. Yeah, it’s noisy, and it still got these springs in it, and everytime you move you are in danger of piercing important parts of your anatomy if one of those decides to break free. The thing is, Chrissy got this wonderful white soft down mattress, you know?”
“Yup. It’super comfortable.”
“And I… oh, fuck you man.” I hated his jokes. “Two days ago she went visiting her parents, and I used the chance to sleep on her side of the bed. Man! It’s such a wonderful feeling, it’s like your floating on thin air, as if it morphs to fit your back. And it makes not even a single sound when you turn on your side or whatever. I slept like a baby! I woke up and felt refreshed, not the usual tiredness and back pain I am normally greeted with every morning. It’s… Nice, man!” The latter comment was directed at the eleven dollars he just won. Why did I never have this kind of luck?
“Thanks. I still do not see your trouble, though.”
“She came back yesterday. And she wouldn’t let me sleep on her mattress.”
“Yeah, why would she? It’s hers, and yours sucks.”
“So? We’re a couple, we should share. Speaking of sharing, share your cards, dude.”
“Yeah, I’ll fold. I’ll quit now, I don’t wanna lose this money right away. We still going drinking on Friday?”
“Sure. I’ll call. Bye.”
“You’re not looking good, Petey.” Thomas was not joking. We were at Burger King, bribing our stomachs with superfluous calories so that they wouldn’t fail us in the drinking hours to come. I caught my reflection in the giant window to the left of our table. My face looked bloated, my eyes were sunk, and, although this wasn’t connected, I really hoped that hairline would not recede further.
“I know. It’s all Chrissy’s fault.”
“This is not about the mattress, right?”
“But it is! She won’t let me sleep on her side. It’s not fair!”
“Pete my friend, you spent the last, what, ten years on your squeaky mattress? Suddenly you can’t take it anymore?”
I took a bite from my burger. “Ifps naughft thab.” I fiercely chewed and swallowed. “It’s the thought, you know? It’s twofold, actually: first, the uncomfortableness of my mattress is enhanced a hundred times by the softness of the one right next to mine, second, I live with a girl who claims to love me, who I let move into my apartment, who doesn’t want to share with me. It’s not like I wouldn’t let her sleep there again some time, right?”
“Couldn’t you two, just, you know, cuddle close, so you’ll both fit on it?”
“No, she says she needs space when she sleeps, and also I really don’t like lying on my side.”
“What about turning sideways, so both of your upper bodies would lay on the good side?”
“No, man. It would still squeak when you turn. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I gave her a massage, I rubbed her back, I made her breakfast, I offered to sleep on the wet…”
“I don’t wanna here about that. That’s between you two.”
“But even that didn’t work. Even that won’t stop her.”
“Christ, man, I’m eating. Can it.”
I gazed at the half-eaten burger in my hand.
“It’s like… It’s like you’ve been eating onions all your life. Onions for breakfast, onions in your lunchbag, onions for supper. All day, every day. And someday, you met a beautiful girl, and she likes you even though your breath is smelling extremely unpleasant, because of all the onions, you see, and then she moves in and brings her food and she eats Whoppers. All you got are onions, and she eats Whoppers with everything. And one day she visits her parents, and you try one and…”
“Yeah, I think I get your metaphor. So why don’t you buy a whopper for yourself?”
“Down mattresses are too expensive, I looked it up. I can’t afford that. I don’t have a granny who dies so I can get hers, like Chrissy did.”
“Classy, Pete. But I really was talking about Whoppers. You just ate mine, man. Your cheese burger is still lying there.”
“Ah, sorry, man. Here, take it. Go on, no problem. We’re friends, right? But see? This is what happens when a man can’t get no sleep. And I don’t understand how she can be so selfish. It’s like she wants me to suffer.”
“I don’t know, man. I think you’re overreacting. I tell you what we will do: We will go out there, and drink, and be merry, and try not to think about where to rest our weary heads once the buzz wears off, okay? Cheer up!”
“Okay, Thomas. Okay. Let’s leave. You still want to eat my burger?”
“WHO IS THIS?” I heard Thomas yell through the intercom. I would probably react the same way if someone would ring my bell continuously for half a minute on a Sunday Morning at 5 o’clock.
“Hey, it’s me. Peter. Open up, please.” Silence. I rang again.
“STOP RINGING! GO AWAY!”
“This is Peter. Your friend, you know?”
“Yeah, I got it the first time. What I don’t get is why you are waking your friend Thomas on a Sunday. What time is it?”
“Uh, two past five. Let me in. I’m cold.”
“Shit, I had two hours of sleep. What do you want? You can’t come in. I’m tired.”
“You gotta, man. Chrissy threw me out. Please.”
I heard a pounding through the intercom, though I couldn’t tell if it was his fist or his head he was hammering against the wall. Bad sound quality, you know?
“Goddammit, what have you done? What have you done?”
“Listen, Tommy, I can tell you everything when I’m in, I’m freezing out here. Can you come down, help me carry my stuff?”
“No. No.” I hadn’t heard this tone of voice from him before. “I will put the receiver down and turn off the bell if you don’t tell me what happened, and then I MIGHT let you in. Your choice.” Man, he could be a cold one.
“Okay, so what went down was that I couldn’t sleep again this night because Chrissy again wouldn’t let me sleep on the down side, and so I was lying awake, phantasizing about how comfortable I could feel if I were just a yard to the left, and then I realised that this won’t change, that misery would stay my constant night companion, so I woke Chrissy up and told her that it wasn’t working out, and she started to cry, said that she thought that I loved her and that she was so sure this time and so on, and I tried to console her and stuff because I like her, even love her maybe, I just couldn’t stand it anymore, you know?”
He apparently didn’t. I continued.
“Anyway, she goes on and on about what went wrong and what she could have done better, and I think that’s my chance and mention that, you know, maybe there is a solution, but suddenly she goes totally apeshit when I mention the problem, says what kind of asshole would break up with his girlfriend over a fucking mattress, but it isn’t about material things, see, it’s about comfort, and quality of life, but she doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to, and she gets really angry and starts to pack her stuff, and I think, well, she can’t take the mattress with her, at least not now, because she has no car, right, but then I see that she actually packs my stuff, and she shoves the bag into my hands and says get out, and it’s my flat, but you haven’t seen the look in her eye and I got a little scared and well, here we are now. I grabbed the Playstation and some other things on the way out though, so we can rent a game and have fun, huh? I mean, it’s not like she won’t calm down, so I really only need to crash for a few days, a week tops. Okay? Can I come in now? Oh, by the way, what kind of mattress do you have?”