As a newlywed, I envisioned certain aspects of being married in very definite ways. I saw us eating breakfast together on a vintage cloth covered table. Never happened, mostly because I have always risen and left the house before Matt cracks an eyelid. I envisioned us curled up together on the couch, watching movies, holding hands, sharing a bowl of popcorn. In reality, I hog the couch and push Matt onto the floor, where he stretches out on every pillow in the house. We’ve also discovered that we don’t share food very well.
I also daydreamed about not having to sleep alone anymore. I’m talking about the ultimate girlish daydream: cuddling. Going to sleep together, feet touching, having someone to hug during a late night thunderstorm. I saw myself waking up, rolling over and smiling contentedly into Matt’s face as the early morning sunlight shone through the curtains.
This did not go as planned.
My first hint that something was amiss happened on our honeymoon. We were slumbering in our hotel suite and I was half awake thinking how lovely it was that I’d married a man who didn’t snore (another misconception that would soon thereafter be popped like a three year old’s birthday balloon). Suddenly Matt sat up, gazed at me with a dreamy smile and half closed eyelids, and said, “Would you please tell the spaceman to stop wearing my socks? I don’t have time to take a trip to the moon.”
And before I could respond, Matt rolled back over and continued to sleep. I later mentioned this to his mother, who laughed.
“Oh yes. Matt has been known to sleepwalk. Once he came downstairs one night, ate a popsicle and had an entire conversation with me while he was sleeping. It was so cute.”
I smiled, and agreed. Eating popsicles and talking about space men was pretty adorable. But the events that would follow after were decidedly not adorable.
My first encounter with “nighttime Matt” happened several months later. I awoke in the middle of the night, one eye wide and unblinking into the darkness of our bedroom. But after a few moments of complete confusion and disorientation, I realized my right eye was wide and unblinking because Matt was leaning over me, peeling my eyelid back with his finger, his other finger poking my eyeball like a demented ophthalmologist.
I screamed. And then I punched him in the jaw.
It was a confused scene. I flailed wildly, throwing bedcovers everywhere in dazed horror. Matt, whose eyes immediately shifted from the glazed state of a sleepwalker to complete consciousness when my fist made impact with his face, clutched his injured jaw and repeated over and over, “You hit me. You hit me.”
“WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?” I shrieked.
“Do what?” Matt’s face was blanched with confusion and panic.
“You were, you were … poking my eye!” I accused, rubbing my injured optical cavity with righteous indignation.
“No I didn’t! I woke up when you hit me!”
And that’s when the cold bath of reality swept over me. My sweet beloved was, as it turned out, a notorious sleepwalker. And while I still loved this good hearted man with rabid devotion, I began to worry. Seriously worry. Was there a possibility that he was a dangerous sleeper? Was he Jekyll and Hyde? A nice man by day with a subconscious eye poking hobby at night?
As the sky grew dark in the evenings, I watched him suspiciously. I also purchased a black velvet sleeping mask from Bed Bath and Beyond to protect my precious vision.
Weeks passed without incident. I stopped contemplating separate bedrooms with locks and let my guard down. And then came the second altercation.
It was a Friday night; cool fall air blowing through our open windows as we stayed up late watching a movie. It was around 1 am when I drifted off to sleep, and it was a mere three hours later that I awoke in a panic.
The entire room seemed to be rocking, and I awoke with one thought: EARTHQUAKE.
But it was not an earthquake. It was Matt, gripping the back of my underwear and jerking as hard as he could. Lets anyone think this story is about to get raunchy, let me assure you, it is not. You see, I was on the receiving end of what people like to refer to as a wedgie. And not just any schoolyard prank wedgie with a joking yank at the top of my underwear. Matt was clutching a fistful of my under garments and yanking upward with the strength of ten men.
I swung my elbow backwards as hard as I could, kicking my legs like a fish on the end of a hook. Once again, we went through the same scenario.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Matt lay there blinking, stunned, awakening from dead sleep, “Huh?”
I jumped from bed, adjusting my stretched out underwear with as much dignity as I could muster, “You were doing it again!”
“Did I do something in my sleep?”
This time Matt sat upright, glancing nervously back and forth to make sure I still had both my eyes.
“YES!” I snapped, “Only this time you were giving me a WEDGIE.”
Matt made a critical mistake at this particular juncture. He laughed.
“A wedgie huh? That’s kind of funny,” he chuckled.
“REALLY?” I screeched, “You only say that because YOU weren’t the one being assaulted.”
“It’s not as bad as last time,” he grinned sleepily.
I glared at him with the anger of 100 violent felons, “Find somewhere else to sleep.”
And so poor, pitiful, eye-poking, wedgie-giving Matt gathered his pillow and trudged down the hall to the guest room genially.
I was faced with a giant conundrum. Did I continue slumbering next to my sweet but nocturnally frightening husband? Or, did we go the Victorian route and opt for separate bedrooms less than six months after reciting our vows? It was not good times.
How did this work out? I’m not sure. A doctor attributed these incidences to stress. And at the time, there were no two people in the world more overloaded than us. We were college students, Matt worked full time, and I held down two jobs. And we were newly married. It was a veritable stress-o-rama. But as we got into the groove, Matt’s sleep improved. The nighttime mutterings and hall pacing slowed down.
Once, and only once, did Matt mistake the corner of our bedroom for a toilet. There is nothing more jarring that being awoken by the sound of urine splattering onto shag carpeting. But barring that ordeal, sleep time has been peaceful. Cuddling has commenced. And when it’s cold at night, Matt lets me stick my cold toes on his warm feet.
But sometimes, every now and then, as we’re drifting off to sleep, I reach for my sleeping mask. Just to be on the safe side.