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.