To Make a Bed

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

“Curioso que la gente crea que tender una cama es exactamente lo mismo que tender una cama, que dar la mano es siempre lo mismo que dar la mano, que abrir una lata de sardinas es abrir al infinito la misma lata de sardinas. “Pero si todo es excepcional”, piensa Pierre.”

Las armas secretas — Julio Cortázar

“Curious that people think that to make a bed is exactly to make a bed, to shake a hand is always to shake a hand, to open a can of sardines is to infinitely open the same can of sardines. But everything is exceptional”, thinks Pierre.”

Las Armas Secretas- Julio Cortázar — my translation

Almost every night around,10:30 as my Rosemary, our two cats Niño and Niña and I lie comfortably in bed I invariably tell Rosemary, “ Five minutes ago it was yesterday.

This is especially true these days in which I try to explain to Rosemary that no matter how busy I may be I feel I am waiting. I tell her it is an existential wait. She does not seem to understand.

When I was 20 I went through a period of reading Camus, Sartre, Heidegger and Kierkegaard and I would tell everybody I was a follower of existentialism and especially Camus’s concept of the absurd. I remember going to a café, La Rana Sabia (the Wise Frog) in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa dressed in a black turtleneck and drinking black coffee.

It is difficult for me to eliminate from my upbringing that idea of waiting for things to happen. My grandmother would have said in Spanish (it is lovely as it is play of words that will not translate) ,” El que espera, desespera,” or “ He who waits must despair.”

Rosemary keeps insisting that I keep myself busy. Distraction will not help me in these tough times in which at my age of 77, clearly I am awaiting some disease to finally do what out of warranty does to automobiles.

But with all this waiting it is at least pleasant to do it in a comfortable bed. Ours is a lovely Stickley bed with a firm mattress and extra-large pillows.

I can remember my first bed in Buenos Aires. We lived in cramped quarters so until I was five I slept in a large crib in my parent’s room. I was promoted intoa bed that still had railings ( a large crib?). I fondly remember lying by my father on their bed. He may have been drunk. We would sing My Bonny Lies over the Ocean, and Onward Christian Soldiers. Every night I had to kneel by my bed and recite, “Down I lay me, down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, God Bless Daddy, God bless Mommy and make me a good boy.” At the very least that prayer taught me at an early age that the verb to lay is transitive.

Before I married my Rosemary we would drive our VW to my mother’s house in Veracruz. We did not share the same bed but I made sure the doors of our separate rooms were well-oiled and did not squeak.

As soon as we were married we lived in an extremely narrow apartment, about 17 feet wide. Our bed was small and very intimate. We did not mind. As soon as Ale was born and we moved to a larger apartment, when she cried at night I would put her basket in the tub in the bathroom!

Originally published at



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