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Bed-making

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Rating: PG-13

My bed has been made, though not by me. Who has made this bed? It is one more thing I cannot figure out.

For many years I made our bed, to give our children the illusion that making the bed was an important thing to do, that successful grownups made the bed to start their successful grownup days, but now that the children are grownups and are not successful and hate us for lying to them about what life would be like, I no longer have to pretend that making the bed is important. All pretending has ended now. My wife has her bed and I have mine. She (I suppose) makes hers and I don’t make mine. And yet my bed is made. Someone is making this bed. This happens a few times. I leave it unmade in the morning; by dinner it is made.

I don’t know anything about that, my wife says when I ask.

Don’t you? It seems like something you would do.

Sneak into your room and make your bed? She chuckles. Perhaps, but I did not.

She drinks her sugar-loaded coffee. Her hair is very short—it seems to be growing shorter by the day. She says she has heard from the children: our daughter is dating a new man who is very kind; our son has been promoted. But she is lying, or has been lied to. Our son will be middle-management for all eternity. Our daughter will bounce from man who mistreats her to man who mistreats her.


My wife and I do not share a bed but we share a second-floor apartment. I lock my bedroom door from the outside to keep my wife away. And yet, when I come back from my afternoon walk and unlock the door, my bed has again been made. Someone has turned up the sheets, fluffed the pillows and placed them neatly on top.

The next day, again, I lock the door, and go on my afternoon walk, scowling at the swans by the industrial swamp they pretend is a lake. When I return and unlock the door, my bed is made. The sheets are tucked so tightly, as if to keep me from my own bed. I inspect the lock very carefully for signs of damage; I find none. From the couch, my wife smiles thinly over her romance novel, though her eyes never leave the page.


The next afternoon I announce my walk, but when my wife goes to the bathroom for her pills, I open the front door and slam it, then slip silently into my bedroom. I lock the door from the inside. I hide in the closet, amid my ugly old suits. I wait. Once, many years ago, I’d thought these suits stylish, and I want to pretend that they were, that they’ve warped with age, or that the styles have changed. But I know better. They were always ugly. I hear my wife’s soap opera in the kitchen; in the kitchen much drama unfolds. Then I hear a creak, a scraping—someone, I realize, is entering my bedroom through the window. The window!

Through the sliver between the closet doors a man in a blue hooded jacket enters my field of vision and begins making my bed. His back is to me and I cannot see who he is. I look around for a weapon but can find no better than a hanger. A hanger always works in the movies. The maker bends over the bed, adjusting everything to its proper place. At first I try to imagine it is a maid sent by someone who loves me. But all pretending is over now. I see the fury in the arched back, the strained wrists, the fists clenching at the pillows. This bed is being made with spite.

When the man goes around to the other side of the bed, I see it is my son. My son, my scowling son, who is grown but not grown, who will never rise above middle management. He ought to be a maid. He is making this bed so meticulously. I taught him that! Or did I? No, it was me. Look, there he goes. Leaving without goodbye. I have taught him everything.