When S. and I moved into together, we kept all our pillows. We merged clothes and dishes, boots and jackets, umbrellas and books, and hairbrushes and hair ties. The excess went into donation bins. The benefit of having a similar taste and a similar size made it easy to pare down our already limited belongings. It’s one way that being a same sex couple is cost effective.
But we kept all the pillows.
There’s a pillow hierarchy. We have eight in total and keep them all on the bed. The cheapest, lumpiest ones get the purple pillow cases. They work best behind the knees or as spacers between the thighs. Then there are four extra long pillows. It was really hard to find cases that fit. They sometimes ooze out of the end like exploded microwave burritos. Then there are the two good feather pillows, which I got for free some an Israeli friend of mine who moved back home after we finished college.
At 10:30pm on weeknights, I’m in bed. I’ve coached classes all night, and after the too hot train ride home (when I’m too tired to read and have to be careful not to make accidental, glazed over, zoned out eye contact with strangers), I dramatically climb the stairs out of the subway station. For all my working out, my legs are always tired. I have one chore on the way home: the grocery store. I purchase a ten pound bag of ice because they’ve been out of the five pound bags since forever.
The ice thing is one of the quirks of the apartment. Our freezer is tiny and doesn’t work well, so ice is a semi-weekly expense. Once I get the bag of ice, I haul it to our brownstone where I slam it into the steps a few times to break up the solid block. I do this quickly because I don’t like loitering on our nearly empty street late at night.
I open the front door and check the mail even though I don’t have any hands left to carry envelopes without wetting them with the condensation from the ice bag. If there’s nothing interesting (appeals for money from places I already donate to automatically or only during Christmas time) I leave it in the mailbox. If there’s something interesting—there rarely is—I carry it in my teeth up the stairs. Me, the ice bag, my backpack, another grocery bag incongruously filled with oat milk and salted butter, the keys pinched between my fingers, the envelope in my teeth.
In the apartment, I put the ice into the “ice bucket,” which is a 2.5 gallon plastic waste bin that I ordered to store our recycling. I ordered two—one for paper, one for plastic—but we put the recycling in Trader Joe’s bags, and the bins stay empty or full of the ice bag.
I eat a little and brush my teeth. Check my phone. Sometimes I read. I leave two lights on and build myself into bed. By “build myself” I mean I construct a box of pillows—a squishy lean-to—that blocks the light and keeps me warm. A like of astronaut helmet of pillows. I leave a little slit so that when S. gets home, they can find my sleeping eyes.
S. gets home and fills the empty bin—the one without the ice bag—with water. They check to make sure I’m there, cooing at me through the crack. In the pile of pillows, I can look like a messy bed more than a person. Sometimes I wake up. Sometimes I don’t. Then S., plops their swollen feet into the water and gently adds one ice cube at a time to the water. Plop. Plop. I can sometimes hear it from my fort. The slow cooling acclimates their feet slowly and transforms the tap water to freezing water that will calm the inflammation. S. scrolls through her phone while their feet marinate and the pillows muffle my snores.