The Island

The Island 

By JD Miller

At first they shared a twin-sized mattress, in a room hardly bigger than a closet. Some legs or arms always hung off, and they would always lay intertwined like two lengths of rope. There was no helping it. Even on the sweaty days. But especially when it was cold. There was no heater, or at least not much of one, just each other, and two pillows so close together, they often woke up on the same one.

And then, there was a full-size mattress. Suddenly, they realized that they had what they’d been missing before—space to breathe. Sweet, glorious space. Now there was less sweat, thank God. And they could put their own heads on their own pillows, and stick their limbs out from under the blankets however they liked, whenever they liked. The room got a little bigger, too, though not much.

After that, a queen. And the added inches seemed to make all the difference. The bed felt so big they could hardly find each other, could ​choose ​not to find each other if they wanted, and choice makes all the difference. There was no need to wrap their legs together, or let their arms fall asleep, or wake up with a neck like a creaky gate. Now you could sleep like a dream. You could even get out of bed without anybody knowing. And that hadn’t been the case before, although it was hard to remember that time, that little mattress that only one person could carry to the curb.

Hard to believe. There was so much​ space b​etween them now. What luxurious space. And somebody, now that their room had exponentially grown, and had a closet the size of a small bedroom, suggested that they upgrade. It’ll be good for your backs, for your necks, the proper way to reward yourselves for all this hard work, for all these years.

They went shopping together, and it had been a while since that happened, especially for a mattress.

There were rows upon rows of them, scattered like clouds under soft lights. They found themselves in awe of the dimensions they came across, found themselves saying repeatedly, “Wow, that’s huge.” Found themselves thinking about how many people could fit shoulder to shoulder on a bed that big. Pictured it floating across the ocean like a barge. Pictured being marooned on it, a big spongy island.

And it occurred to one of them that on an island that size, you might not even know anybody else was on it. How luxurious, huh? To not even know. To have to ​look ​for someone else, crawling around in the dark. So much space to kick your feet.

And it occurred to the other one of them that on a bed that size, you could very easily find nobody at all. You could kick and kick. And not feel anything.

As if they were staring up at the endless stars of a moonless night, they reached for each other’s hands. Thanked the mattress salesman, who looked like he was in need of a better night’s sleep himself. They said they’d think about it.

They went home, without making a sound, and crawled into bed before the sun was set, and even though there was more than enough room for two of them, and four regular pillows, plus four decorative ones, and enough blankets to keep plenty of people warm, they still found themselves pushed into one corner, under one blanket, their heads on the same pillow, arms pinched beneath bodies, legs intertwined so that knees rubbed together.

And there was plenty of sweat, and ticklish, cold breath against necks—there was no helping it. But beneath blankets, robbed and recovered like conquered land, the clamor of one heart talked right to the clamor of the other, asking, like two bells in one tower, “God, how did I forget we could be this close?” and answering, “There you are—finally. I’ve been looking so long.”