Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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981 words
SHJ Issue 4
Fall 2011

On Sleeping in Another Woman’s Bed

T. Nicole Cirone

At first, it’s exciting, dangerous. Her clothes still hanging in the closet: rows of silk and fine cotton in pinks, greens and yellows—colors you have always felt were too girlish for you. Dress after Lilly Pulitzer dress; frilled blouses and half-zip golf pullovers coordinated perfectly with matching Bermuda shorts and pleated skirts. Prints much preppier and labels much more expensive than anything you have ever been able to afford on your teacher’s salary. The orange and pink tailored mini dress that betrays a figure much more voluptuous and legs much lengthier than your own. You piece together the golf outings, the flawless legs tanned monthly by Caribbean sun, her convertible sportscar, her carefully crafted blonde hair falling in soft waves on the shoulders of the pink cashmere sweater folded—no doubt by the housekeeper, as she was not one to tidy up—at the top of the sweater pile on the shelf. Her flowery sweet perfume undercuts only slightly the patchouli oil you are fond of wearing. She’s left behind shelves filled with cosmetics and hair treatments, perfume bottles and body crèmes. You feel an uncomfortable pang of comparison when you realize that she uses the same L’Occitaine body crème you once used, but are instantly vindicated when you remind yourself that you used that crème when it was still only available in France, having discovered it while living in Paris with your then-lover. Feeling suddenly more sophisticated than she, despite the carefully collected designer wardrobe and cultivated aura of wealth and privilege that your new lover provided her, you stand naked in the master bathroom, the double French doors closed but not locked behind you, and finally understand what it is like to be the Other Woman.

Your new lover, the one whose wife has just left behind these vignettes of their life together, is waiting for you on the other side of those doors in his—no, in her bed. For hers it is, and in the months following, you find it less exciting and increasingly less pleasurable to make love in the bed as you wrap yourself in the pale blue sheets and floral quilt she had selected in anticipation of their marriage—and under which she slipped, naked, in the hopes of seducing him one last time before leaving. This scene plays in your mind one night as your lover is undressing you in the bedroom, with candles (no doubt, hers) lit all over the room, and you curse him silently for telling you about their last night together—even though you wanted to know; you’d asked after all, trying to be a good listener and prove yourself more sensitive than she. But you hold it in, you hold it all together for weeks, lest he think you don’t believe him when he tells you his relationship with her is over. You want to believe him so badly, yet she still hasn’t come to collect her belongings from the house, and this becomes problematic when, months later, he asks you to move in with him.

And you agree to move in. You agree because you have fallen for him, despite your friends’ warnings. He hasn’t had a “transition girl,” after all, and he’s called you by his ex’s name at least twice—though only one of those times was in bed—and though she’s come to collect most of her clothes and cosmetics from the closet, there are still crisp-handled White House/Black Market and Nordstrom shopping bags filled with her things in the basement; leather jackets of hers in the coat closet; expensive suitcases, framed photos of her and your lover and boxes of floral decorations stacked in one of the extra bedrooms. Moreover, the bed is still there, in the bedroom you will soon share, and you’ve found yourself finding excuses for him to stay at your place because you can’t seem to orgasm at his place—which will soon be your place—except when you make love in odd places like on the sofa and in the guest bedroom. And you wonder if it’s you—if you are being too sensitive or immature, and you can’t find a solution to this problem. One night, as you are making dinner for him at your place, he tells you that his wife has texted him and asked him to box up the rest of her things, including some furniture she claims she has left behind, and bring them to her at her parents’ house, where she has been living since she left. You see your opportunity and seize it. “You may as well pack up the sheets and comforter and send them along, too,” you tell him. “And maybe we can think about getting a new bed.”

He doesn’t understand—sheets are just sheets, after all, he says, and explains that men just buy things when they need them—why would he buy sheets if he already had them? And the bed was expensive—and is quite comfortable, much more comfortable than yours. But what he doesn’t know is that while you are still making him happy as you make love in that bed, you are making love to another woman’s husband in another woman’s bed. In the middle of the night, when he is resting comfortably wrapped in the pale blue sheet, you can not fall asleep in her spot, on her side of the bed. Your heart beats quickly against the tightly-fitted sheet, against the mattress, and you can feel her—her arousal under his touch; her longing for love; her dissatisfaction; her dreams; her anxiety; her shame at being rejected by her husband once again; her tears and finally her steady, even breathing in the night. As he sleeps beside you, your body presses against the imprint she has made in the bed, in his life, in your life. And you wonder if it’s as simple as getting rid of the bed.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury