I’ve been married for a long time—long enough to know that my husband can fall asleep with the television blaring and all the lights on in the house, but when it comes time for bed, he cannot fall asleep if the tiniest night light is glowing, even if it is five hundred feet from his pillow. As a result, unless there is a full moon or a police spotlight shining in our window, our bedroom is so dark that quite frankly, sometimes I can’t tell if my eyes are open are closed after we turn out the lights. To be honest, I’ve grown used to the darkness—unless I have to get up in the middle of the night. And that is where my story begins.
Rain or shine; dreams or nightmares, I know I can always count on my dependable middle-aged bladder to wake me up promptly at 3:00 a.m. On a recent night, everything progressed as usual—or so I thought. My bladder called my name with a sense of urgency like never before. As usual, I crept out of bed, felt my way along the wall, knocked over the box fan, and hit my shin on the chest of drawers on my way to the bathroom. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. It was only after I arrived at my destination, threw it in reverse, and plopped down that I saw a shadow suddenly looming over me. I did what any middle-aged woman in mid-stream would do in that moment. I screamed like a girl. My husband jumped back in surprise, hit his head on the door behind him, and groggily yelled, “I didn’t know you were in here!” I wondered why he didn’t know I had already left the bed approximately two minutes earlier (not counting the commute), but then I remembered. He couldn’t see a thing.
After a day of traumatic visits to the bathroom where I continually envisioned what might have happened the night before if I hadn’t screamed in time, my husband and I crawled into bed. With one hand on the light switch, I turned to him and gently asked, “Now, you know what to do if you have to use the facilities, right?”
He nodded. “I just reach over and feel around to make sure you’re still in the bed, right?”
I smiled and flicked off the light, “Good night, honey.”
The next thing I knew, a set of hands was briskly frisking me in the pitch blackness like a TSA agent in the airport security line. Soundlessly, my husband left the bed. I counted to five. By now, he should have reached the bathroom tile. But he was nowhere to be found. All of a sudden, I heard a strange rustling. What was that noise? Was it a mouse in the wall? A squirrel in the attic? A bird in the chimney? Then I realized it was my husband who sounded like one of those wind-up toys that heads straight for the wall and keeps right on walking.
“Hang a left!” I shouted into the darkness. The rustling quieted and then I heard what I had been waiting for all along—the sound of his bare feet shuffling along the bathroom tile. I breathed a sigh of relief while secretly contemplating whether or not to make night goggles part of our bedroom attire.
A few seconds later, my husband returned to bed, but not until after he knocked a picture off the wall, tripped over a tennis shoe, stubbed his toe on the bed post, and enjoyed a rather close encounter with an artificial tree in the corner of the bedroom. “Do you think we should buy a night light?” I whispered as soon as he pulled the sheet up under his chin.
“Never!” he said emphatically as he stuck his foot out from under the covers and rubbed his sore toe. He reminded me (as if I needed reminding), “You know I can’t sleep with any light in the room.” Meanwhile, I silently massaged my bruised shin and readjusted my pajamas that had become rumpled during my unanticipated frisking. Finally I sighed. We would get through this together—just as we had everything else. I groped around in the darkness until I found his hand. I grabbed it and squeezed tightly. Unfortunately, it was his nose.
I’m not going to candy-coat it. That bruise is going to take a long time to heal.