“I’m not telling you again to get out from under the vacuum. You’ll make me trip and break my neck, then where will we be?”
My mother. Realizing she had a problem child. One who loved white noise of any kind. I’d lie on the floor while she and the big Electrolux did their thing. When she went to another room, I’d crawl with them.
“Weird,” I heard her say one day. It wasn’t a word I could remember her using, so it stuck with me as she watched me inch my way closer to the dishwasher she’d just flipped on.
Whenever I visit, my father trots out a box fan at bedtime with great fanfare. My sister does the same. I have quite the reputation.
“I need to tell you something about myself.”
Me, the first night the partner stayed over. He squinted like I might have ptomaine or two-sided private parts.
“I need you to know that I know it’s nuts. But I need you to love me anyway.”
It was hard for me to continue.
It was hard for him to answer.
“I have a noise thing.” And that’s all I say.
“Noise,” he says.
“So – when you go into the bedroom, there will be a few things going on. And I need you to be okay with them. ‘Cause I want this thing to work.” I take a sip of liquid courage and dive in. “First of all, I know the air conditioner is already on, but there’s more. I also have a Vornado aimed at the bed. It’s a high-powered fan with a turbo speed setting from Switzerland or Sweden or Michigan – I don’t know which – anyway, it makes it very loud in there.”
“Aaaaand…there’s a noise machine on top of the dresser. Also…there’s a room purifier they don’t even make anymore. On the floor. Next to my side of the bed. I have to troll for them on the black market and pay top dollar. It has a Super Speed selection that makes it sort of sound like a – well, it’s loud.”
“Wow,” the partner says. “Okay.”
“Alright. It’s time for you to go in there. And I need you to remember how much you like me. ‘Cause I really am all that – even after you see – I mean, hear – all this.”
“Whooooa,” he says, stepping inside the bedroom in his boxers and t-shirt. I pretend not to notice the hair on the top of his head blowing back like he’s in a shampoo commercial from the ’70’s. “It’s sort of like walking into the belly of a 747.”
“Easy,” I say.
“Wow,” he says again.
I wonder how many more times he’s gonna say wow. And how long it’s gonna take him to bolt.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” he says calmly.
I think he sort of smiles, at least that’s what I’m going with.
He climbs carefully into bed. “Wow,” he says again, laughing out loud.
“Okay, I got it. Wow. I just hope – you know, I’m worth it, right?”
“That remains to be seen,” he says, his hands behind his head.
He has a point there.
This past summer and a full decade later, we found ourselves on a boat.
“It’s gonna be so incredible falling asleep to the sounds of the water lapping against the bow,” he says.
“Omigod I know it,” I say, suddenly remembering I’d totally forgotten to bring my portable wind machine with us. I decide I don’t care. I mean, how often does one find themselves lulled to sleep by the sounds of the ocean carrying them to faraway places?
At 4 am I take my 12th melatonin. Nothing’s working. I’m scratching my head like I have lice. I’m sure I look like Marty Feldman in anything. I’ve decided the ocean sounds more like a dog licking its butt and I’d sell my soul to pure evil itself for the whir of the old Sunbeam from my third grade classroom.
As a last-ditch effort I decide to count sheep. But as the minutes tick by, I send them, one by one, over a cliff instead of over a fence.
“This is for you. Happy Early Valentines. I hope you like it.”
Two nights ago. He says it with more than a hint of fanfare, like it could be a ring or something, but since both of us have little to no interest in getting hitched, that dog won’t hunt.
“Oh – my G — I didn’t even know they made these anymore?!”
I’m staring into the package and can just make out White Noise Machine by Sharper Image.
“It has pretty much everything on earth – thunderstorm, forest sounds, any body of water you can think of.”
He presents me with another box. I’m thinking a new Bentley couldn’t be any better.
“This one you can just call out commands while you’re in bed. “Play Oceans of the World.”
Oceans of the World?? I have no idea what that even is!
“What are you doing?”
Last night. The partner doing his last minute bedtime things.
“I’m setting up my new noise machines. You are AMAZING by the way.”
“But – all your other stuff is up and running.”
“Yeah,” I say, asking the pot-bellied robot to play Rivers of Saskatchewan.
“That’s not – you’ve gotta turn a couple of them off.”
He looks like Tommy Lee Jones at the end of “Eyes of Laura Mars” when Faye Dunaway realizes he’s the killer.
“But – you said—”
“I didn’t say you could have them ALL on at the same time, I mean come on. That would be nuts. I mean, that would be—”
“Turn off two, keep three on. I’m patient and understanding, but I’m not crazy.”
I go brush my teeth, come back. “What if—”
“Turn off two, keep three.”
It’s like Sophie’s Choice – the boy! the girl! the Vornado! the table fan!
I can’t believe how hard life is.
He gets into bed, pulls on his sleep mask. “Happy Valentines,” he says, raising his voice a bit over South American Thunderstorms coming from the foot of the bed.
“Says you,” I mumble, as Rivers of Saskatchewan threaten to lull me into sweethearts slumber from the bedside table.