Posted by: shelliejelly | November 18, 2008

A pile of pillows

I read every night before I go to sleep. I pull back the covers and crawl into bed, propping my head up with two pillows, one decorative, the other utilitarian. A stack of books about eight high sits to my right, and the one on top is my current material — I only have to mindlessy reach over, plucking it from its throne.

This ritual, one of my many beloved habits, started when I was young. I’ve always like to read, books being purchases I make with an almost reckless abandon. I don’t always know the authors I buy, though I have my favorites, and I get restless when the end of a book I am enjoying nears. So affected was I by John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, I joined an online chat group so I could extend, like a prolonged exhale, my connection with the characters.

Crazy? I don’t know, perhaps.

These days, I look forward to sinking into my pillows and entering the story I am reading. I like having a peek at another life, even if its fictional. But then, when my eyes half moon and I know it’s time to sleep, I return the book to its place and shut off the light, taking the decorative pillow from behind my head and placing it among the jumbled mix that sit on O.’s side of the bed.

Last night, I stared at this pile of pillows, shadowed outlines as the streetlight settled in through my window. Suddenly, the stark recognition that this life is no longer what I had once planned sends my mind to friends with seemingly bigger, much better places in this world. A lawyer in New York, happily living with her lover; a newly married friend out West; a successful government worker finding solace in a man she’s looked for so long I think she might have given up.

Like reading, I glimpse these lives online, over e-mail and in person and imagine that anywhere is better than my bed, covered in pillows that represent my lone, lonely, deserted existence. But that’s the beauty of a snow globe view of lives that aren’t your own — you make up the in-between, coloring everything with happy.

Even I know that’s not true. I know everyone struggles, just as my own sadness has another side, several in fact, that aren’t dusted with gray but bright with potential and possibility, fortune and fate.

But still I feel compelled to compare, to want the shadows to represent something more than inanimate objects stacked where a warm body used to lay. “I want” gallops through my mind again and again and again, lulling me to dreams of love that doesn’t disappear.

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