On Beds

fire

I think what I have been seeking in life, all this time, has been a bed.

A great, big, warm bed, the kind heaped with large, thick, patchwork quilts in pastel shades, and pillows so soft your head sinks into them when you lie on it. It sits right beside a crackling fireplace, this bed, and sleeping with me inside it are cats, and loved ones, all of us bundled cozily together, as the rain lashes against the window in silvery streaks, and the storm howls and moans.

Unfortunately beds like these, like all good things, are hard to come by; the quilts themselves, for one thing, only grow on a particular tree, during particular nights, when the mushroom gypsies dance in a ring around it; and you and I both know how hard it is to ask storms to rage where you want them to. And loved ones are the hardest to procure of all, for they have a tendency to vanish like snow when the spring comes.

So, as a compromise, I have been doing other things, to re-create the warmth of such a bed. I write stories, in which I know that, no matter how hard life gets for the characters, it will all turn out well and right in the end, and they all end up sleeping in wonderful beds, happy and content. I play make-believe, though I am too old to do so, pretending I have such a bed, cats, a warm mug of hot chocolate on the bedside table—and sometimes, if I am concentrating especially hard, it feels real and true.

Even so, nothing can substitute for the real thing, and that is something everyone learns, as they grow older. What’s more—and here is the real kicker—if I were, by some miracle, able to find and sleep in such a bed, sooner or later, I would begin to find it a disappointment. It’s not the bed that counts, you see. It’s the idea of the bed. What it represents. It’s the soul of the bed that I’m after, not the actual quilts-and-wood reality. I just want the idea of flames, the idea of cats, of love and coziness, to wrap these concepts around me like a warm, abstract blanket, nestled in philosophical warmth.

However, in truth, such a bed does not exist, and never will–at least not for very long. Flames dwindle; storms end; loved ones fall asleep, and night always comes, deep and dark. Indeed, it is not so much the bed or the idea of a bed that I want, but the feeling that would live in my heart, were I to lie in such a bed; a feeling that the world is a warm, cupped hand, cradling my form, loving me, helping me, so that nothing can go wrong, and I will always be looked after, and safe—asleep, in my bed.

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