We put our mattress at curbside on April Fools Day. The battered and flattened love nest was taken to a dump by “New York’s Strongest”– the city’s sanitation workers. B and I moved into a new apartment, a bright, newly renovated one bedroom with hardwood floors and lots of windows. Hot water is included.
From atop our new bed, a mere cushion on the floor, we have a quarter-mile view of the spacious skies that blanket the many highways ofNew Jersey. The multi-lane highways that cut on the outskirts of this town stem from the Big Apple and the Lincoln Tunnel. This is a community of immigrant workers and strip malls. Central and South American culture if prevalent here; it rivals the spicy scent ofSouthern California.
In the evening, a view of sunset is demanded from the two windows of our new bedroom. Last night, the scattered remnants of strong thunderstorms that killed hundreds inAlabamawere seen drifting as innocent puffy grey clouds into a pink horizon that put in mind sunset over deserts surrounding theHoly Landand inEgypt.
We left Brooklyn like thieves in the night, crossing under the Hudson River in a white van rented with a charming, Italian driver, for a mere $120. Ten years of life was spent sleeping on that mattress. Our old apartment was run down, and although we had windows there, we never saw the sky like this. Our backs hurt from that old mattress. In the windowless bathroom inBrooklyn, the cave we left behind, mold had formed green stalactite sculptures, tempting me at times, when running out of gel shaving cream, to reach for the stars. For more than a decade, I was convinced and somewhat paranoid that the spirit of my dead lover Shawn was haunting the apartment I inherited from him soon after his liver failed due not to booze, but Hepatitis C.
I wasted little time in moving another lover of mine into the old place in order to afford the $1,000 monthly rent along with heat, hot water, electricity and cooking gas. At first, we slept on the same bed my old partner went into the light upon. We paid our rent in cash; that was the arrangement the landlord, Lenox McQueen, required when I took over the place two days after Shawn.
I had just moved into Shawn’s place, my things were mostly still in boxes. We had planned to moved to California in a month or so– back to Shawn’s home and a life where he could once again “Earn a real living and make some honest cash”, selling weed, of course, for his brother Woody who ran it from Mexico. I couldn’t wait to get out of New York ten years ago—leaving there a decade later is like a breath of fresh air. It’s notCalifornia. It’s better.
With tears streaming down my face in mourning, and not knowing where I was going to live at the time, I agreed when Lenox showed up at the door ringing the bell, reminding me that life goes on and that in lieu of security deposit, if I wanted to remain in Shawn’s old apartment with those plywood floors, I would have to pay outstanding arrears on the gas bill which was not in Shawn’s name, but in Lenox McQueen’s, who was obviously running a sham on tax returns for all those years. Shelling out two grand seemed like my only option at the time, so I gave Lenox most of what was in my checking account to settle “Shawn’s debts”. I did not foresee a tragedy at work—a confrontation with my boss, Mary D. Redd, which led to a considerable loss of income and left me, at the time, weeks away from homelessness and no hope. Thank heavens I had spent a few nights with B before moving in with Shawn. It was a miracle that he lived inBrooklyn, and found me two days after I had been released from the hospital.
It is no wonder I lost my mind and was found in a screaming match with a hooker outside a motel in North Jersey. The police came, then the ambulance, and finally a nice-nasty shrink, who, with slanted eyes painted with sea blue eyeliner, looked deep into my frightful, paranoid glare, and assured me, without blinking, that she would give me “something to induce sleep”. I had explained to her while strapped to a bed in an emergency room that I had been awake for at least a week and could not sleep because I was having terrible dreams. I told her something odd was happening now that Shawn was gone, and when I slept, I was still with him, in a sense. My explanation went over her head.
I should have mentioned to her that I was taking Ambien, prior to onset of a torturous restlessness that had consumed me. It had been prescribed by a physician who I had visited a week prior in order to be tested for HIV and hepatitis. I begged her for something to help me sleep. I was on edge. When I learned Shawn was sick, I lost my mind, convinced I too would die from the big disease with the little name. My joy was great when I learned I had not been infected, I took a few of those pills to get some rest and eventually ‘grandiose delusions’ formed– as they would in anyone experiencing similar circumstances and taking mind-altering, sleep-walk causing, Ambien. For all these years I believed I really was mentally ill.
Sure I was deemed at Trinatas Hospital in Elizabeth, NJ as in a certified ‘acute psychotic state’, but there was cause for my escape from reality and if only I had been given something to simply tranquilize me and not Ambien after going for those test results, perhaps the last ten years of my life would not have been spent suffering withdrawal from paralyzing drugs that were force fed to me. The toxins oozed from my skin and out my ass in the form of gigantic zits and boils that formed the moment I stopped taking them. My muscles moved in spasms and my face twitched like Joe Cocker’s.
Because Shawn’s last moments at home were spent in atop our bed where he too had entered a state of seeming psychosis, and due to the uncertainty that existed regarding his sudden passing due to a possible suicide, it seemed necessary to purchase a new mattress when B moved in with me.
Shedding Shawn’s ghost, his mattress and the mere essence of my ‘depression’ did not come easy; as a matter of fact, even with a new mattress, his soul still seems to linger when I lay perfectly still. We seemed to share something– having both lost our minds like that—fortunately for me, I was raised from the dead.
The new mattress survived many sleepless nights as I struggled with major depression and miraculously overcame that dreaded disease without the anti-psychotics that are known to stifle creativity in so many who are psychically blessed.
With the bed bug epidemic spreading across New York like a dead lover’s soul passing over the happiness of the true love he left behind, it seemed necessary to purchase another new mattress as B and I departed Shawn’s old place for a place of our own– across the river– away from all the sadness that I’m sure still bites in that tiny room overlooking an overgrown, weed- infested backyard in Brooklyn.
We brought very little with us– tossing away even my heavily stained camel-back sofa and marble coffee table that Shawn and I once made love upon. A futon mattress is what we sleep on in New Jersey. It feels much safer and somehow, the deadly spirit of depression was left there, on Kosciusko Street, where I first picked it up like a bed bug.