This morning my sleep was ended not by the ringing of the alarm clock but by my wife Carol punching me in the nose.
As I cried out in pain, she offered this: “Oh, I’m so sorry — I didn’t think you were still in bed.”
“So — you just struck out blindly, not checking to see if there was still a head nestled atop the other pillow? Because I can assure you there was, and now there is a throbbing and perhaps damaged nose affixed to that head.”
“I said I was sorry,” she replied in what I considered to be a tone devoid of contrition. At this point I got up and went downstairs into the bathroom to see if my nose was broken or bleeding. It wasn’t, but from the force of the wayward blow Carol delivered it very well might have been.
The perpetrator then came downstairs and asked if I’d made coffee yet. I stood speechless for a few moments, incredulous that while I was still recovering from my injury, at her hand, her thoughts were only of breakfast. Then I placed a filter in the basket and started the coffee.
Carol emerged from the shower twenty minutes later, opening the bathroom door to let the steam escape. I said I needed to come in and use the toilet; she responded by asking if I could wait a minute or two. Well, perhaps a few years ago I could have, but these days I find it prudent to address the urge as quickly as possible. I informed her as such; she shot a quick but obviously annoyed glance my way and, after a beat, moved aside so I could get past. People offer many indications of how well matched they are as a couple — shared interest in gardening, mutual love of travel, engaging in spirited political debate, sexual compatibility — but I think the ultimate barometer of spousal longevity is willingness, however grudging, to share the bathroom when one of you requires time sitting on the can.
After Carol left for work I still felt drained from the morning’s events and decided to slip back under the covers to make up for the sleep I’d been robbed of due to the assault at dawn. As I settled into a comfortable position, our cat Nate jumped up on the bed and demanded attention. I tried to shoo him away; he responded by poking me in the nose with a needle-sharp claw. I leapt out of bed and ran downstairs to, for the second time that morning, check for damage to my nose. While the puncture was small, it bled for some time and when it finally stopped it looked as though I’d just had my right nostril pierced.
Since the bedroom was no longer a safe haven, I poured myself the last of the coffee and went into the living room to watch the noontime news. No sooner had I settled into the couch than another of our cats, Miles, jumped into my lap and began to head-butt me. I tried to shoo him away; he responded by poking me in the scrotum with a needle-sharp claw. I leapt off the couch and ran into the bathroom to, for the third time that day, check for damage to my person; I feared he may have vasectomized me. Such a procedure may, at this stage of my life, be superfluous but you know what some people say: they feel safer sleeping with a loaded gun, even if they never intend to use it.
By now I’d given up on the idea of getting any further rest and decided to make a fresh start to the day with a shower. After stepping out of the tub I was greeted by the last of our cats, Sophie, who has a foot fetish and loves to rub her face all over my bare feet when they are freshly scrubbed. I tried to shoo her away; she responded by clinging to my ankle with all of her needle-sharp claws. Since I was already in the bathroom, there really wasn’t any place for me to escape to, so I stood there screeching until Sophie decided to let go and saunter back to her kibble. She’d left a series of red, raw scratches circling my lower leg, creating a dotted line that will be a helpful guide for the orthopedist when my foot eventually requires amputation once the infection sets in.
By the time I’d dried off, treated this most recent wound, gotten dressed and waited for the pain to subside, the day was more or less shot. I made myself a vodka tonic and tried, unsuccessfully, to work up any enthusiasm to prepare the evening meal. Thankfully, frozen pizza was invented for just this reason. Carol returned from work and walked through the door just as the oven timer rang. I reached in to remove the pizza and accidentally brushed the back of my hand against the upper rack, causing an immediate and painful singe.
“What’s that smell?” Carol asked. “Did you burn the pizza?” I stood speechless for a few moments, incredulous that as I recovered from yet another injury her thoughts were only of dinner. Then I pulled the pizza from the oven and served her a slice.
After eating I pled exhaustion and announced I was going to bed. I stood, able to rise only to a crouch, with breath whistling through the extra hole in the side of my nose and, favoring my good leg, hobbled upstairs. Carol came in later, cradling me in her arms while whispering how sorry she was for my ailments and offering hope I’d feel better. I nodded my head and offered a slight grunt of acknowledgment.
Carol ended this very trying day for me on such a sweet note that, before drifting off to sleep, I nearly felt remorse for stuffing catnip in her pillow and resetting her alarm clock two hours early. Fortunately, it’s her turn to make the coffee tomorrow morning.