I’ve always slept on the right side of the bed. Even on the twin mattress of my childhood or the ridiculously thin, pathetic excuse for a mattress of my college dorm, I always drifted off to la-la land in a position that was at least slightly right of center.
So when I got married, there was no question of which side of the plush queen mattress I would claim as my own. I settled comfortably on the right side; my new husband settled in on the left. We slept gloriously like that, side by side, two puzzle pieces perfectly in place.
Then my husband became a firefighter. And everything changed.
Every third night, my husband is hard at work at his station. On those nights, the mattress seems to grow exponentially. I stay on the right side, but there’s nothing but space to my left. No more gentle tugging of the sheets, no more arms wrapped around my shoulders. It’s just me and the dogs.
“It’s just us tonight, guys,” I whisper, and they jump into the bed, trying to fill the void left by my absent firefighter. It, of course, is never the same.
On most of these “firefighter nights,” it takes me longer to fall asleep. I think about what my husband might be doing; I pray for his safety. I usually turn up the fan so I won’t notice that I don’t hear his steady breathing beside me.
Those nights always make me appreciate my husband more—how hard he works, how selfless he is as he puts his life in danger for people he doesn’t even know.
Sometimes a sudden bout of snoring from one of the dogs will interrupt my thoughts, and I make a mental note to tell my husband about the dogs’ antics when he gets home the next day. I hope he’s getting a full night of sleep, uninterrupted by alarms and emergencies. Maybe he’s asleep at that exact moment, rolled slightly to the left as he makes room for where his wife is supposed to be.
Thinking of my firefighter and how ready I am for him to be next to me again, I close my eyes and inch just a little further to the right.