Sleepless in Centralia

Taking my lumps for marriage

The bedsprings creaked. Strange bed. Low thread-count sheets. Rubbery motel blanket. Neither of us could get comfortable.

Blame it on equal rights. Another same-sex marriage had drawn Wifey and me away from the comforts of home. Our friends, like thousands of other lesbian and gay couples from the 48 states where it’s not yet legal, went to California to get married. After their official ceremony in an L.A. courthouse, the brides would have a garden reception at their home in Seattle.

Wifey and I left Eugene on a Friday night with plans to stay in a motel to break up the six-hour drive. I took the wheel while Wifey conked out in the passenger seat. The Value Inn sign was the first thing I saw when our tires ran over the freeway rumble strips and bumped me awake.

Speaking of bumps, the motel’s mattress had a serious case of them. What was left of the batting now clumped between worn-out springs, the ends of which poked up every place my exhausted body pressed down. This bed was more tired than we were. The thin cotton mattress pad was nothing more than, shall we say, lipstick on a pig.

Here we were in Centralia, Wash., too sleepy to drive but too out of our element to sleep. It didn’t help that the guests in the room above ours were really enjoying their mattress. Through the ceiling resonated the unmistakable ee-er, ee-er, ee-er. We lost it like teens at a slumber party — Beavis and Butthead do Centralia.

A good giggle usually relaxes me, but these surroundings were too strange. Our so-called nonsmoking room had apparently once done a stint as a cigar lounge. Several Harleys were parked out front, but why would anyone be revving their engines at this hour?

“It’s the fridge,” Wifey mumbled and pulled a lumpy pillow over her head.

The mini-fridge kicked itself into overdrive. I considered getting up to unplug it, but I couldn’t bring myself to cross the floor barefoot. Who can forget the episode of MythBusters where they go through a motel room with one of those body fluid-revealing UV lights? No way was my flesh coming in contact with that carpet.

I lay there trying to drift off when my fingers encountered a raised bump on the back of my leg. “What’s this?” I asked Wifey, enough alarm in my voice to prompt her to flick on one of the bedside lamps — the one WITH a light bulb. Mutual skin observation comes with couple territory, regardless of sexual orientation (or, for that matter, legal marital status.)

“Looks like some kind of bite,” said my Domestic Partner, whose rights to make decisions on my behalf should this mysterious bump render me incapacitated are recognized by law in our home state of Oregon but not in Washington. She clicked off the light and pulled up the overly Febrezed sheets. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

I worried. Could it be bed bugs? Once, on a solo trek in Mexico, I’d met chinches —  tiny little mattress-dwelling creepy crawlies the size of a flax seed. They climb up through the sheet seeking your body heat and warm blood. If you jump off the bed when you feel their pinch (note tone of first- hand experience) you can catch a quick glimpse before they dive back down into their nest.

But we weren’t in Mexico. We were in a more-or-less respectable roadside motel in a country that, thank God (and the Democrats) has yet to deregulate public lodging mattress sanitation. Besides, bed bugs don’t discriminate — they bite everyone in the bed. Wifey was now sleeping soundly and unbitten.

I adjusted my brought-from-home pillow, spooned around the comforting and familiar curves of my gal and fell asleep.

The next day, during the ceremony in our newlywed friends’ garden, Wifey pulled me close and whispered, “We’ll always have Centralia.”

Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow prefers to sleep at home in Eugene.



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