AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 7/09/2004 12:02:00 AM ----- BODY:

For Real

If you watch movies or television, you may think that any couple who lives together are two impossibly good-looking people in a spacious, light-drenched studio loft, perhaps, or a sprawling penthouse filled with matching designer furniture. If you watch movies or television, you may think that any couple who lives together eats a sumptuous meal on a high butcher-block table under gleaming silver pots, and snuggles together in a king-size bed on Egyptian cotton sheets with a ludicrously high thread count, snuggling in one another's arms till sunrise, when they wake perfectly arranged together in an adorable, cuddly pose, perhaps spooning, or perhaps with the woman's head on the man's chest and his arm protectively around her shoulders. If you watch movies or television, you may think that any couple who lives together awakes looking rumpled and adorable, perhaps the woman curly-haired and fresh-faced in one of his oversized shirts, striding out to the hardwood-floored kitchen to put on the gourmet coffee in the espresso machine. And I'm not denying that such a lifestyle might be nice. But if you can show me such a couple, I'll show you the film crew behind them. Period. Here's our day yesterday: We wake up sweaty, not because anything R-rated is happening, but because our apartment is not air-conditioned. We are tangled up in sheets and the duvet, and most of the pillows are on the floor or smashed into position under our heads. We wake up on opposite sides of the bed, under different blankets, even, since Steve likes just a sheet with the end tucked in, and I like to cuddle with the comforter with nothing on or anywhere near my feet. Why do I like to cuddle with the comforter and not my actual boyfriend? Well, maybe it's because my boyfriend has these pain-in-the-ass things called bones, and arms that fall asleep, and the comforter doesn't mind when I punch it to get comfortable. Either way, that adorable cuddle-pose as the morning dawns? Not happening. Nor is the hardwood floor or the espresso or the gourmet coffee. Steve eats the blueberry muffins he bought me at the grocery store, only to find out I don't like blueberry muffins. I don't eat anything--I never eat when I first get up. We laze, we lollygag, we dawdle, and eventually we head out the door. I have a plastic sandwich baggie of Triscuits on the passenger seat of the car as we head to Somerset. We reach Somerset, look around his bedroom at his parents' house, and realize we don't have any boxes to move his stuff in. Four hours later, we're attempting to cram boxes from coffee makers and George Foreman grills full of books into our small sedans. The bottoms of all the boxes are threatening to give way. "These boxes are not made for moving," Steve's father scolds us. He makes us promise at least three times to get different boxes to move the stuff out of the car with. Three hours after that, the hot dogs Steve's mom fed us sitting hard in our stomachs, we pull back into the driveway. We then take a gigantic, world-class gamble and use up the rest of the duct tape on the inadequate boxes. Both of us then nearly kill ourselves getting them up the stairs. After a fight, a day's worth of drudge work and a few crying jags, we are sweat-drenched, cranky messes. And we are in bed together again. Steve has this hidden talent--he can do a highly realistic snore on command. I have a hidden complex that is only coming out now that I have to sleep with someone else regularly--I am a basket case when it comes down to me, and the ceiling, and nothing in between but the attempt to reach unconsciousness. The two combine for hilarity. I start to talk, Steve snores. He starts doing it to make a point, but after a while, he starts doing it even after we say, "Fine, good night," for at least the fifth time. After a while, it dawns on me that he's doing it just to hear me laugh. I ask him if this is his motivation. Sheepishly, he admits that it is. I hunch toward him and lay my head on his chest. His arm circles my shoulders protectively. Perfect movie-pose. "Good night," we say together. A few minutes later, his voice comes through the darkness again. "Beth?" "Mmmuh?" "Um, can we move? My arm is falling asleep." Thank God we are real people.