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Home Alone

By Mary Ellen Collins

John is spending the weekend visiting his mother, which means I am spending three nights on our living room loveseat. I’m afraid of not sleeping near the front door when he’s gone. He doesn’t understand the logic, since my arrangement means I have to turn off the security system in case I need to get up during the night.

“You’d be safer in the bedroom with the alarm on,” he says.

“But if someone’s trying to break in, the alarm would jolt me awake and scare me to death. I would rather be in the living room so I could hear the bad guy at the door. Then I could call the police.”

Before he leaves he makes another attempt.

“Maybe you’ll try sleeping in the bedroom? I worry about you.”

“Travel safely, honey. I’ll be fine.”

That evening I turn the loveseat into a bed with sheets, blanket and pillow. We had sold our oversize sofas when we moved into this house because we thought its narrow living room was better suited to smaller furniture. I didn’t anticipate a problem until I climb under my blanket, try to stretch out, and realize I can’t wedge my 68 ½-inch frame into 52 inches of sleep space. I curl into a fetal position and think, “I’m fine. This is how I usually sleep.” But when curling up in a California king, you know you can extend your limbs if you want to. When you curl up knowing that’s as far as you can go, body claustrophobia sets in. I have to stretch out — immediately.

I turn onto my back and prop my feet up on the loveseat arm. No good. I turn on my side and keep my feet up. Even worse. I craft a “mattress extension” by piling up throw pillows on the floor. I curl on my side like a shrimp, stretch out my legs and rest my feet on the pillows. This works for five minutes until the effort to maintain the stack’s integrity strains my calves.

I give up and take to the floor where I can stretch out in the narrow space between the loveseat and the glass coffee table. But as soon as I lie down my hipbone shrieks. I realize I have never prepped my body to sleep on the floor. I’ve never owned a sleeping bag or taken a vacation that required one.

I consider and dismiss a yoga mat. Too thin. I need thick padding that will stay put, so I retrieve the firm cushions from a porch chair and line them up on the floor with my pillow at the end. And then I lie down, stretch out, and wait. No discomfort. Hallelujah.

I get two hours of fitful sleep, but I know I’ll hear a bad guy approach before he can even rattle a doorknob. I repeat my arrangement for the next two nights, waking up foggy and stiff each day. When John returns and I recount my resourcefulness, I also admit that floor sleeping is not the optimal solution.

“Does this finally convince you to sleep in the bedroom, in the bed, with the alarm on when I’m gone?” he asks.

“Of course not! We just need to go shopping.”


“A me-sized couch!”

And because he wants both of us to sleep well while he’s away, he doesn’t argue.

— Mary Ellen Collins

Mary Ellen Collins is a freelance writer and essayist who has been a humor columnist for Angie's List Magazine and a community columnist for The Arizona Republic. Her topics range from preschool to pie crust, and her essays have also been published in Notre Dame Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The Tampa Bay Times, Writer's Digest, SASEE and Outdoor Life.

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