I was making the bed, as I am wont to do on laundry day after the sheets are done. For the first time in perhaps, well, the first time ever, I noticed the number of pillows on my bed. Really noticed. Why is this important? you ask. I'll tell you.
I have seven pillows on my bed. Seven. These, on a slightly undersized queen mattress. I am only one person. My head may be big, but it isn't so big as to cover seven pillows. How can this be?
To be sure, two of those pillows are for support of my legs at night, due to a nagging low-grade back problem I have had for years. The dual leg pillows were suggested long ago by my doctor, and it has been beneficial in keeping my spine straight. Which is a necessity. Lower back pain = lack of sleep = Grouchy Gumbo. And no one, especially me, wants to see him.
Two more pillows are graced by my largish melon, also beneficial for the Gumbo neck. I've become accustomed to resting my noggin on two pillows, and find it very difficult to sleep without that arrangement. The ensemble is topped off by a third pillow which I keep over my head for the purpose of blocking out noises and light. My sleeping habits changed over the years, and I went from being a fairly sound sleeper to a somewhat light sleeper. I have the unfortunate quirk of being overly sensitive to sounds when I am trying to concentrate or sleep, in that I find them almost impossible to ignore. So the equivalent of a giant earmuff has become standard equipment in the Gumbo Sleep Palace.
You may have noticed already, my friends, that this leaves two pillows unaccounted for. How to explain that?
The answer, I believe, lies partly in my state of mind relative to my current life situation. I don't have a favored pet, my head isn't that big, I have been living alone for over two years now...but patterns persist, especially if they are ingrained after many years of habit and stasis.
The first pattern is overt, and is that of visible symmetry. The bed simply looked better, more balanced, less open with a set of pillows on each half of the mattress. Having one set on the side where I usually sleep just looks odd. And I never glommed onto the idea of putting one set in the middle of the bed at the head. Honestly, it never occurred to me.
The second pattern is covert, and reflects an inner construct so long embedded it had ceased to register in a conscious manner. It is the pattern of a different life, of a bed shared for years, and the pillows were always there on the other half of the bed. Two pillows representing what used to be the other half of me, a half that has been sundered. That this sundering was necessary is beyond question. That two pillows in a certain place should follow me into the next chapter of my life is a more complicated condition.
I think the two pillows represented a time in my life when I had a peculiar type of certainty, a sense of my person and how I fit into the life I was living. Having to live on my own was such an affecting transition that my subconscious probably clung to anything it could grab that it recognized. Going to bed at night with two pillows on the other half of the bed was eminently familiar, so I stuck with it. When it came time to make my own bed, literally, I went with what I knew.
Standing at the foot of my bed, musing on the wall of seven pillows I have built there, I sensed it may be time for a change. Seven pillows may be comforting, but that many aren't truly necessary. Soon, soon, I think, I'll finally move one set off and move the other to the center at the head. I'll be able to look down at the singularity of those pillows, and realize that they are not as lonely as I feared.
There will be a day when I put my pillows in the center, at the head, and know that I have balance.