Jen Schneider

on unmade beds & new (never) lands :: to know never (never) land

i wish i made my bed. a bed of two pillows (one goose, one memory foam) & many nights. the morning we i left. i’d make the bed each morning. fifty-two years & many more yawns. most dawns common. most motions of muscle & memory. until one morning, the children (puffed of priorities & eternal youth) came to visit (as they sometimes would) & told to pack a small suitcase. for an adventure. to never never land, i joked. time to make new memories, they said. my memories are here, i replied. ultimately, i complied. never say never, he had always said. before his passing. i adopted his phrasing with time. & his memory with regret. room for two, i asked as wrinkled fingers pressed cloth with no bounce. dresser drawers stocked of neatly folded cardigans. cotton & hand-knit blends. velvet-lined boxes of faux pearls. a single strand of 14-karat gold. bronze rings & silk scarves. trinkets from days lived. & loved. of roadside fleas & annual crafter conventions. of never land. i took my time. they took time back. one is plenty, they said. no need for more. hurry now, can’t be late. i was late, i quipped. for our first date. we never saw the movie. i saw their eyes lock then linger. with your father, i said. their lashes blinked. their eyes went blank. they think i do not know. screws tinkered with over time inevitably loosen. tinkerbell promises flight while peter pan pursues eternal youth. i dabbled with visions of never never land as i folded socks of golden threads. the room their boxing ring. me, a captive audience for them & a televised match. forbidden garments the rules of the game. fight or flight a lesson of one-room schoolhouses & schools of thought. no one asked me what I thought. & so i packed. packed visions of never land. dodged silent punches. my stomach growled. hungry. for home. welcome home, the plaque said. perched atop the archway as the under-stuffed & overheated car rolled up. i forgot to make the bed, i joked. this place is no bed of roses, i added. softly. your father would not be pleased, i whispered. i need to pee, i said. finally. & loudly. heads turned right. ears continued to turn left. they think i do not know. it’s been forty days. i count. threads & time. now (& then), i seek the morning sun. & the morning news. it hits the window as the alarms ring. only the window hits back. all light carefully curated. & curiously artificial. nurses open then shut plastic blinds in quick rotation. too hot, ms. b. don’t want any flares. plastic rulers click and clack. tap. tap. on tinted windowpanes & palms of heavy oil. it’s mrs., i reply. blinds settle. stares remain blank. they think i do not know. pixie dust scatters. then settles. on over-sized blocks of ivory soap. it’s a wonderful life. think wonderful thoughts of wonderful things. & i do. i think of beds of two pillows (one goose, one memory foam). pots of brisket & golden-brown potatoes. chicken noodle soup. sardines on whole wheat bread. preset radio dials. walks down main. main courses at midnight. nightcaps at dawn. lawn games. laces on nets. crayola on cardboard. polish on mustangs. mustache trims. thread counts. paisley petals on sky blue cotton sheets. chocolate cherry-stained mouths. stained glass vases & freshly cut daisies. in my mind i flee & fly while i spend most days in the brown rocker. to the right of the bed & beside the window. rooms of sardines. coated of mustard seed. soaked in baby oil. stocked and stacked. a terrible staging for an over-staged setting. a stage not unlike that of peter pan. the one the children played with and in. year one cast as wendy. year two as captain hook. never predictable. always landed. emotions & candle votives stuck behind curtains & casting-call pools. urgencies of urine & you’re in. others out. by definition. it’s elementary. simple math. pools of urine unify. the aide in the yellow uniform pretends not to notice. dish rags sop and soap scrubs. i remember flipping through magazines with high-gloss ads. five stars. only the stars fail to shine through the light-proof blinds. pixie dust everywhere. magazine deliveries fail to please. no new york times. no atlantic. nothing cosmopolitan. mostly soap box spoilers and tv guides. they think i do not know. i doze amidst recollections of days of spontaneous card games & impromptu dime-store shakes. jokers always laughing. mixers always making. moments turned minutes turned memories. i wish i made my bed. now, friends & foe plan. always on. never landing. vitals and vitamins. four-ply handkerchiefs & three-square meals. aides in white uniforms arrive on the hour. check pressure. clip hairs. tuck sheets. beds always made. four corners. pulled tight. four seasons. culled tighter. schedules always right. my mind wanders as the wayward do. not in asymmetrical patterns but in footsteps. tracing. tracking. talking. will they stop. will i ever land. go home, they tell me. to the row house on the busy avenue. halfway between here & there. dressed in polish lace & german accents. a stone’s throw from the no. 5 bus. a red eye away from corners where ice-cream trucks collide with barters of ale & wine. where the children play. games of hopscotch. metal jacks. & where i always made the bed. the bed of two pillows. roy acuff on the pre-set radio. soft lyrics stream. don’t make me go to bed and i’ll be good. all corners tucked. don’t make me stay and i’ll be better. all screws tightened. place the phillips head in his old toolbox & the jack daniel’s in our china cabinet. antiques. he & i. i of him. he of me. memory foam. they think i do not know. i wish i could go home. i wish i made my bed. 

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections, Invisible InkOn Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility and On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles (Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.

A Song for Jen

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