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OutLoud: Bumpy Night

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Or Sleepless in Centralia.

Sally74By Sally Sheklaw

The bedsprings creaked. Strange bed. Low thread-count sheets. Rubbery motel blanket. Neither of us could get comfortable.

Blame it on equal rights. Another same-sex marriage had drawn Wifey and me away from the comforts of home. Our friends, like thousands of other lesbian and gay couples from the 48 states where it’s not yet legal, had gone to California to get married. After their official rites in an L.A. courthouse, we’d attend the brides’ garden reception at their home in Seattle.

Wifey and I left Eugene on a Friday night with plans to stay in a motel to break up the six-hour drive. I took the wheel while Wifey conked out in the passenger seat. The Value Inn sign was the first thing I saw when our tires ran over the freeway rumble strips and bumped me awake.

Speaking of bumps, the motel’s mattress had a serious case of them. What was left of the batting now clumped between worn-out springs, the ends of which poked up every place my exhausted body pressed down. This bed was tireder than we were. The thin cotton mattress pad was nothing more than, shall we say, lipstick on a pig.

Here we were in Centralia, Washington, too sleepy to drive but too out of our element to sleep. It didn’t help that the guests in the room above ours were really enjoying their mattress. Through the ceiling resonated the unmistakable ee-er, ee-er, ee-er. We lost it like teens at a slumber party—Beavis and Butthead do Centralia.

A good giggle usually relaxes me, but these surroundings were too strange. Several Harleys were parked out front, but why would anyone be revving their engines at this hour?

“It’s the fridge,” Wifey mumbled and pulled a lumpy pillow over her head.

The mini-fridge kicked into overdrive. I considered unplugging it, but I suddenly had a vivid memory of the episode of MythBusters where they go through a motel room with one of those body-fluid-revealing UV lights. No way were my bare feet coming in contact with that carpet.

I lay there trying to drift off when I felt a raised bump on the back of my leg. “What’s this?” I asked Wifey, thankful mutual skin observation duty comes with couple territory, regardless of legal marital status. She flicked on one of the bedside lamps—the one WITH a light bulb.

“Looks like some kind of bite,” said my Domestic Partner, whose rights to make decisions on my behalf should this mysterious bump render me incapacitated, are recognized by law in our home state of Oregon but not here. She clicked off the light and pulled up the overly Febrezed sheets. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

I worried. Could it be bed bugs? Once, in Mexico, I’d met chinches— little mattress-dwelling creepy crawlies the size of a flax seed. They climb up through the sheet seeking body heat and warm blood. If you jump off the bed when you feel their pinch (note tone of first-hand experience), you can catch a quick glimpse before they dive back down into their nest.

But we weren’t in Mexico. We were in a country that, thank God (and the Democrats), has yet to deregulate public lodging mattress sanitation. Besides, bed bugs don’t discriminate—they bite everyone in the bed. Wifey was now sleeping soundly, and unbitten.

I adjusted my brought-from-home pillow, spooned around the comforting familiar curves of my gal, and fell asleep.

The next day, during the ceremony in our newlywed friends’ garden, Wifey pulled me close and whispered, “We’ll always have Centralia.”

Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow prefers to sleep at home in Eugene.

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