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Off the Grid: Heat wave threatens marriage

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve shared a bed with my husband, and I don’t mean that in the victorian sense of the term. I literally refuse to let him within four feet of my body, lest our sweltering flesh spontaneously combust or we both melt into the same pool of plasma, only to be boiled by the sun.

I imagine the two of us frying like a pair of eggs in an iron skillet.

On brand with his lumberlover facade, Charlie wears a year-round sweater vest of stereotypical masculinity. When temperatures creep close to triple digits, I worry that he’ll accidentally felt and shrink. So I suggested we put a bed on the deck for us.

It seemed a romantic idea. A lovely bed with thin cotton sheets and a darling patchwork quilt draped over it. The shade of the dogwood tree let dappled light through while the flower boxes invited bees and hummingbirds to explore. Charlie fetched our pillows as the evening breeze blew in something more tolerable than the furnace blaze of midday.

Once upon a time, we humans thrived outdoors with very little shelter, wandering through nature and laying to rest on a bed of leaves or straw. We found caves and coves to protect ourselves from the elements and slumbered deeply without the distraction of blue light and city lights and distant sirens. Probably, that was before we had evolved the hearing capacity for mosquitoes.

My ability to hear a mosquito approaching from the far side of our 10 acres of property is perhaps my most evolved quality and survival instinct. Before it was even time to crawl under the cool sheets and stare up at the night sky, I heard them making their way toward a feast of my sweet blood. They dare not risk landing on Charlie, lest they get their legs entrapped in the curls of his armor of hair.

I abandoned my husband to stargaze by himself as I labored up the stairs to the third-floor bedroom. The temperature climbed with every step until I flopped onto our bed, still radiating heat from the day. Sweat began to pool in the creases of my skin as the still air threatened to suffocate me. My brown dog, loyal to death, lay panting on the wooden planks as she stared at me with pleading eyes. It’s not the first time she’s looked at me as though I’m a lunatic.

Unable to sleep, I picked up a book and left sticky fingerprints on page after page until the night air began to waft through the screened windows. It was a promise of reprieve. Perhaps about the time the birds started singing, it would be cool enough to sleep. As the chapters rolled by and my husband slept blissfully under the night sky, fatigue – or perhaps it was heat stroke – began to overcome me.

In my optimism of impending sleep, I closed my book and switched off my light. I stretched out across the bed, the whole bed, trying to reach each corner with a limb. It was to ensure that no part of my body was touching another part of my body, but it was also to bask in the glory of having the entire bed and its myriad of pillows to myself.

Some people reminisce about the lives they had when they were single. Freedom, friends, a different social environment, no kids, no responsibilities, limitless potential, casual dating, travel – all the things that make us wonder why we ever got married in the first place. Not me. I get nostalgic about having my own bed.

Even in the sweltering bathhouse that my room had become, having the entire expanse of bed to myself was a delicious slice of my former solitude. In celebration, I left my book open on the mattress next to me, as if literature was my lover now as it was then.

I smiled in the dark against my pillow and wondered when it would be appropriate to ask my husband to move into his own room. Probably at least after a silver anniversary or something. Or one of us gets a CPAP machine. I came close once when he had to sleep with double foot braces for plantar fasciitis. His rigid feet poked up under the blankets and gave me dreams of being married to a Storm Trooper.

Just as I was nodding off, I snapped out of my slumber with a jolt. There was a mosquito. I could hear the unmistakable flutter of it hovering about the far corners of our lofted ceiling. They do that to pretend they are already full and not interested. But I know the moment I fall asleep, they’ll engage a soft landing by killing the engines and descending silently above my right eyebrow for a decadent feast that leaves only a giant, rosy welt as a tip.

I jumped up and flicked on the light to find him (her, actually, as only female mosquitoes bite). Locating a mosquito on the wall in a room of knotted tongue-and-groove pine is close to impossible. Except I can hear them breathe. I waited, listened, exposed a leg as bait. I pretended to read as I watched my hot, meaty thigh of her beckoning the bloodsucker.

For being so small, those things are pretty smart. We found ourselves in a stalemate for hours. I put a significant dent in the epic novel I was reading. The temperatures dropped. Now I desperately fought back the sleep knowing I’d be eaten alive if I succumbed. Then I remembered why I liked sharing a room with Charlie: He kills the bugs for me.

I suppose that it is worth at least a foot or two of mattress real estate.

A mosquito was in fact harmed in the making of this story. I have no regrets.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at ammimarie@gmail.com.

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