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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Rocking the Waterbed

March 15, 2001

I awoke a short time ago suffering excruciating pain in the area slightly below and abaft my breastbone.  For several minutes I lay there, waiting to slip a piteous moan into the pattern of Phil's nightsong of ululating, wheezing obbligatos.  But he was flat on his back with his chin on his chest and really hitting his stride, so to speak, and before long, I declared it no contest and got up.

A quick review of my handy-dandy medical encyclopedia soom reassured me that I was not in the throes of a myocardial infarction .  Hypertrophic gastritis didn't seem to be the answer and, after a brief hesitation, I ruled out post-cholecystectomy syndrome, as well.  Hiatus hernia, achalasia, and biiary cirrhosis all gave me pause but after a half hour of fascinating research, I returned my favourite fount of knowledge to its shelf, went out to the kitchen and ate the leftover tuna casserole.

I've always known that my life has been a waste.  Just think what a diagnostician the medical world lost when I sacrificed a career for the dubious rewards of marriage.  It gives me a globus hystericus, just to contemplate it.

And now, after isolating and treating my symptoms, I feel so good that I thought I would do this.  The only thing is, there isn't too much of THIS to DO.

Actually, even as I sought a reasonable explanation of my pain and suffering, the thought occurred that I might blame it all on our less-than-perfect mattress, the one I have been agitating to have replaced for lo! these many years.  Our family keeps pressuring us to  buy a water bed.  But thank you, no, we have already had a go-round with one of those quite a few years ago.  We have never forgotten it. 

Our daughter Lise had come out to babysit the Old Barn and make up Kraft dinner for the boys while Phil and I went to town to celebrate an anniversary.  Graciously, we accepted the generous loan of her apartment, complete with well-stocked fridge (leftover Kraft dinner and five bottles of Molson's Canadian.)  And a water bed.


"My goodness, this is certainly going to be a difficult bed to sleep in," I translated as Phil gingerly prodded the end of it.  Watching the counterpane ripple in a sensuous fashion, I nodded my head in agreement, already feeling nauseous - although that may have been from the slightly intemperate number of toasts we'd drunk to our good friends' health and endurance.  I pulled back the covers.

Holding his breath, Phil seated himself on the edge of his side.  Immediately, my side bulged six inches above the frame.  "Get up, get up, it's gonna burst!" I yelled in panic, pushing down on the ballooning mattress.  The resultant action wafted him to the crest of an enormous wave, moved it out from under and toppled him backwards to the center of the bed where he lay, undulating gently, eyes closed in sickness and terror.

Quickly, I walked around to his side.  "Here, Phil," I said,  "take my hand and try to roll towards me."  Trustingly, eyes still closed, he did so and with my help, hitched over until he was more or less properly aligned.  The bed ebbed and flowed for several moments.  "Now don't move," I commanded, returning to my original starting point and cleverly planning my attack. 

Instead of seating myself and rolling in, as Phil had tried to do, I decided to launch myself, fullbore, to land, with any luck at all, in a position parallel to the edge, head on the pillow and feet somewhere in the general area of the bottom.  Doing it that way, the pressure on his side and the the pressure on mine would be equal and everything should be stable and motionless, right?  Wrong.

I launched.  Phil bounded and then re-bounded, vaulting me into the upper left corner.  I clutched the headboard with both hands.  Phil grabbed my right leg with a dying man's grip and hung on for dear life as the pneumatic resiliance of the bed manifested itself in a series of tidal waves.  Scarcely daring to breathe, I relaxed one fist and extended it toward my husband.  Releasing my leg, he seized the hand and carefully pulled himself up to his pillow, using a succession of wormlike manoeuvers to inch himself into place.  Slowly, I eased my hip down a smooth decline, displacing a hummock which then rose under my shoulder blade and flipped me onto my face.  Below, the water surged and gurgled.  I opened an eye and caught a horrifying glimpse  of a starfish winking lazily in the murky depth.  Hastily I opened the other eye.  Oh thank God, it was only a daisy on the pale green sheet.

Beside me, Phil gently move his arm.  Immediately, I rolled into a trough, once again bouncing him to the brink of disaster with most of his torso on the bed, one leg doubled back against the hill that rose between us, the other foot braced on the floor.  "OK," he rasped unsteadily.  "Now don't move.  Just...stay...put."  With extreme care, I pushed a pillow towards him.  It disappeared behind the mound and after a few tense seconds, activity ceased in that quarter and a soft snore gargled into the dark room.  I clamped my own leg over the sideboard, eased an arm upward until it once more embraced the head board and presently rode a groundswell into oblivion.  Semi-oblivion.  It was a long, long night.

I awaked abruptly around 6 o'clock, tossing and bobbing as Phil floundered over the edge, taking pillow and blanket with him as he left.

"Wassa matta?" I queried blearily.  "Gonna try the couch," he snarled.  "What a #$%&*@%!!"

Reviewing the foregoing after ten years, I once again feel admiration.  Phil really does have a way with words.  I work with them all the time and I could not have said it better myself.

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