Where I Slept



I’m staying at my son’s house and sleeping here, right here in this photo.  My son is all grown up and, for the first time, I am a houseguest in my son’s house.  Wow.  How did he grow up so fast and how did this happen!?!?

I recently came across a visceral and so very real 2009 essay — Stephen Elliott’s “Where I Slept” — and it’s got me thinking about my current sleeping situation and all of the places I’ve slept.  Or tried to sleep.  Or faked sleeping.  Or lay awake ALL night craving sleep.  Or slept alone or with a man or with a friend or on a friend’s couch or with my grandmother or with my dog.  The times I used to sleep with my mother when we only had one bed.  When I was really little I liked to sleep in small, confined spaces, like under the coffee table or in a corner behind a chair, and yet now I’m fearful in confined spaces.  There was my cat, Candy, who, when I was 12, birthed a litter of kittens on my bed while I slept.  The time when I was 21 and was between apartments and slept on piled blankets on a friend’s hardwood dining room floor and read Jackie Collins’s CHANCES and LUCKY in one weekend because I could not sleep and had just moved to a new town and felt lost.  Thank god for Jackie Collins.

Where we sleep can be so … fraught.

Stephen Elliott begins his essay:  My homeless year began early October 1985 and ended in the last day of August 1986. I was thirteen, and then fourteen, and it’s a story I’ve never told in part because I slept so many different places that year. I slept in the broom closet of a friend’s apartment building. The closet was just inside the entryway, past the eight slotted mailboxes. It was the size of a single bed, crowded with mop buckets and cleaning solutions, and I could stretch all the way out and my toes would just touch the door. The building itself was a tan/yellow brick four flat. Kwan lived with his parents and grandmother in a two-bedroom on the second floor, part of a wave of Korean immigrants arriving on the north side of Chicago in the early eighties on their way to the suburbs along with the Kurds and Russian Jews. When I would come over to visit after school his grandmother would clutch my head in her bony hands and pray for me.

Click here to read on (and you MUST read on because it’s fucking incredible).


Tell me a story about where you’ve slept.


29 thoughts on “Where I Slept

  1. backtowhatever

    I slept in a church. We managed to escape the war in former Yugoslawia and found ourselves in a country we barely knew. The only place which we could go was a church, and so we went and asked for a stay. They had no room for us, but let us sleep in the church in sleeping bags. It was one of the most beautiful places where I slept and the memory still gives me that warm feeling of security, even after 20 years.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thank you so much for this story! I love it so much. And I also imagine there are so many visceral details to this story, what an experience.

  2. amyg

    I started a new habit last summer taking the cushions off our patio chairs and laying them on our back deck as a makeshift mattress for afternoon napping sessions. I love sleeping in the hot sun.

    It’s not so much a sleeping story, but…when I was young, probably around my daughter’s age, I would get my handheld radio (before there were even walkmans), a book, coloring books, crayons, my diary, a notepad and pens, and a snack, and see how long I could stay on my bed – pretending I was out to sea by myself w/ all my favorite things. I still love doing this, fixing my cup of coffee on Sunday morning, getting a half-read magazine along w/ my book and my journal, and go back to my bed, propped up on my pillow and still in my sleep shirt. Hanging out in bed for as long as my kids will allow me.

    1. Teri Post author

      I can see you doing this thing with the patio chair cushions, and why not? They would just be going to waste and you would be left craving your place in the warm sunshine. Perfect.

      Going back to set up camp in bed sounds downright dreamy: grab some coffee a book, a laptop to write and read on. I’m trying to imagine doing this —- and of course I see 3 big dog faces staring at me like, “Um, hello! We need our walks lady. There are squirrels and kitties out there just waiting for us to police the area and get things back in line.”

  3. Les

    When I think of where I’ve slept, it seems to fold back to where I *haven’t* slept, or rather, places where you need to sleep but you can’t, and instead recall those interstitial moments between rest and sleep, between when consciousness hangs on but lapses. I guess that’s why I don’t sleep well anyplace but home.

    1. Teri Post author

      Really, how many places do we try to sleep and can’t? And now you have me thinking about sleeping at home and what happens if you don’t have a real home, like Stephen talks about his essay. How does one settle into just any old place and rest?

  4. louisely

    Reblogged this on Louisely's Blog and commented:
    I slept with eyang uti , last night,,, dan beliau bangun dlm keadaan sudah pipis duluan (ngompol),,, bahasa kerennya ‘inkontinensia urin’ ,, and i’m afraid that she has more serious health problem, 😢😢😢😢😢

    1. donnaeve

      You know, I don’t think I’ve ever thought much about where I’ve slept until now.

      Some of the best sleep I’ve ever had was in the back of my parent’s station wagon, on those long trips to Maine. My mother used to always make sure the suitcases were stacked just so, leaving enough room for her to make me a pallet. There was something about the sound of the car tires on the road that was better than any sleeping pill we take today to get to a state of complete oblivion. You know, the kind of sleep that leaves a drool spot on the pillow.

      And another place I loved to sleep as a child was in trees. Something about this today gives me the heebie jeebies, of course. Back then, I was always climbing into this one tree in our front yard, a huge elm, where this one branch that was sort of flat on top was perfect for sitting – or sleeping I guess. I’d sit awhile, and at some point, I’d lie down and nod off, the breeze coming every now and then. Perfect on a hot summer day.

      1. Teri Post author

        The back of the station wagon, cocooned by the luggage, sounds like the perfect sleeping spot to me. Though I could not have done this as a kid because all of the adults chain-smoked while driving and I refused to go on long car trips. “Let me stay with Grandma!!” I’d beg.

        And isn’t it funny about the tree? As a kid I’d sleep on a branch in a second, and now all would think about is falling. (there’s an essay in there….)

  5. Paul Lamb

    I’ve not really slept in any extraordinary places (discounting things like in a tent near the top of a Colorado Fourteener or under a net in my son’s house in Kenya or in the comfy bed in my cabin in the woods). Mostly I’ve slept in my bed or a hotel bed. Sometimes in a recliner. The only uncommon sleeping place for me was one night in Chicago when I was in high school (in St. Louis). A group of us guys decided to make a road trip to Chicago, and typical of our foolishness, we had made no plans for a place to stay. We ended up in a park, sleeping in the car and on concrete benches. I made do, most of my friends thought nothing of it, but one friend was aghast. I even wrote a story about it, though I never did anything with it.

  6. koehlerjoni

    I think I could speak with more authority about all the places that I haven’t slept. I call myself a dyslexic sleeper- even the evening news can keep me awake for hours. Okay, I slept really well when I was pregnant, but since I couldn’t keep that up for the rest of my life, oh well. And forget going to my children’s house, because I have passed up my sleeping-on-a- futon in someone else’s living room phase. Thanks for sharing this beautiful essay. I thought the sections in which he brought himself back to the subject, saying, “I’m not now talking about my father beating me senseless, just about where I sleep,” were just genius. I’ve never actually seen this used as a narrative device before.

    1. Teri Post author

      You’re right, the essay is very smart in going back to that subject which is the underlying, pulsing heartbeat behind the not sleeping. I woke up this morning thinking of all the times I’ve moved (more than 30) and what it’s like to wake up in a new place that’s your new “home.” It’s so unsettling at first, and it doesn’t always go away with time. One of my all-time favorite places to sleep remains, to this day, on my grandmother’s couch. It would already be warm where she’d been sitting or lying that evening, and she was always the first one up in the kitchen — the sound of coffee percolating on the stove, the smell of it, the click click click of her lighting her first cigarette, how she walked hard like me and was never “trying to be quiet” because someone was sleeping.

  7. Shruti

    I sleep at home in my own bed alone. Mom dad separate beds/rooms. I don’t remember ever sleeping with my parents in the same bed or between mom and dad like how kids sleep. Sometimes I have slept at my grandparents house. It’s the same. Own bed. Separate room. Now that you have written this post I have realized I am so lucky, so very lucky to have my own very private sleeping space. It’s funny how we take things for granted until we realize that there are people out there who don’t even have a luxury of bed, or private room or air conditioner. ‘A good night sleep’ is a blessing really.

    Thank you for this post. 

  8. Pamela

    I remember that as a child my mom sometimes took us to church events — not quite revivals, but praise-filled and noisy just the same. When it would get late at night, I would move two or three empty folding chairs tightly together in a row and lie down across them and fall asleep to the hooting sounds of the congregation and the preacher, jubilant tambourine shaking, and people dancing in their seats. The lights were bright and I got used to squeezing my eyes shut against the brightness. The light and sounds merged into a distant thing and I slept with no problem.

    Even in college, I would turn on the radio to take a nap. I rotated the desk lamp on my nightstand to shine directly in my face. The light and noise were familiar.

  9. toyapassion

    that’s a blessing i’m having problems now and i sometimes think about doing the same. but my sit is a little differant i would like to give my assistance at a nice and plasant church amoung many other things.

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