Sometime You Have to Cram Your Face Between the Bed and the Wall

I know that I'm almost 33, and of course Vera knows, being my girlfriend of umpteen years, but I don't let my age get in the way when I hide from the world and tuck into the crack between my bed and the wall. I squeeze my face way in there and it's both soft and cool there, my cheeks tucked between my spread and the bedroom wall in my old apartment in the middle of a very busy place. Everything rushes around me in a series of set directions, on a series of determined missions. I'm in the crack.

"Oscar, are you hiding again?" Vera says from somewhere in the room. I had dropped my suit coat on the floor in a rumple-y mess and then kicked off my shoes while crammed in the crack. Vera was probably arranging that stuff. I don't remember the last time she called me "Krumpy," the pet name she had started calling me after we had moved in together thirty-two months ago.

I think about her question then answer into the crack. My answer is muffled. My answer is "Yes."

As I said, I'm hiding from the world, but mostly bills, or more specifically, I'm hiding from rooting through the ever-growing pile of mail that probably contains a smaller stack of bills, and I'm hiding from all those reports at a job I do very badly and nervously (managing others in a "toxically stressful" work environment--I referred to it like that, "toxically stressful," at a party once and the phrase got good reviews) but specifically, at this moment, I'm pinching my face into the crack to free myself from the big biceps, small t-shirt guy outside my apartment who screamed at me and threatened me over a bicycle on my way in from my "toxically stressful" environment. It was a guttural scream. There was no bicycle present so I assumed it was lost or stolen. I look like a lot of other guys: slim, short, buzzed head, slump-shouldered due to lack of exercise, so I could see how he could get me confused. But a bicycle! I mean, come on. I haven't ridden one in years. I probably don't even own sneakers.

I feel Vera crawl onto the bed. She's on her hands and knees and she's right up next to me now so I have to fight a little to not slide into her. "You should really stop doing this," she says.

What I'm really hiding from is Vera. I say nothing, trying to think about what type of bicycle that guy might ride.

"Stop," she says.

I pretend not to hear, because if I acknowledge her that means the outside is getting to me, even in my safe place, and that would mean that this place really isn't that safe and then everything's to hell in a rumbling dump truck. It's my last beacon of hope in this unusual world. There, I said it.

I simply can't give in.

At this very moment in my life, and various other moments, I need a place like this. Just five minutes a day, mostly when things all sort of hit me, usually right after work. I know I'm 33; I know I should be saving toward a stable and child-popping future, that I should call my mother and ask her how she and my father did it (money; getting along, or pretending to); I know I should socialize more, network is the business term, move up the work ladder and skyrocket my pay grade like my butt is on fire; I know I should get serious with Vera; I know that the crack between my bedroom wall and my bed used to be a funny thing between Vera and me.

Vera puts her hand on my back. I jump. She keeps her hand there and applies pressure as if holding me in place or, the next step, to suffocate her rather difficult boyfriend. She sighs, then says, "Would any other girlfriend put up with this?"

I wait a while. The world is fast around me. My face is starting to hurt.

"Huh?" she says. "Are you with me?"

I move my shoulder a little so she knows I'm not dead.

She says it again. "Would any other girlfriend put up with this?" She shakes me real hard. She's crying. I think I feel a tear drop on the back of my neck.

"Yes," I say, finally, lifting my head.

"Of course," she says sharply. She snorts snot in her nose. I drop my head back into the crack.

I wish that I could want her pain to be transferred to me, to join her in this bout of misery, to fight this misery together in the open, in this fast place: cars and people and pieces of mail and bicycles.

"Will you, or will you not, accept in full that I am abnormal?" I say quite clearly into the crack, enunciating as if a professional movie preview gentleman. I clear my throat for emphasis. "I need at this moment to know your answer so that the rest of my moments can be clearer like perfect car windows," I demand deeply into the crack.

"What did you say?" Vera says. "I can't hear a fucking word you're saying!"

Then I lift my head, straining to look upwards into my room like a turtle might or a newborn something. "Mmwnff!" I say to my girlfriend of umpteen years. "Nnfnodd bnaw nnng! Naaa da da rrtmmf! I prop myself up on my elbow. "DA DA RRTMMF!" It wasn't the bed smothering my words this time; that's actually what I said.

But I already know her answer. It is in my head and has been for some time.

About the author:

Casey Wiley is a third year nonfiction concentration MFA student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where he teaches English Composition, Literature and Intro to Creative Writing. He attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference 2007 where he worked with David Shields. His work has been published on the website, in Siena College's literary magazine: Pendragon Literary & Arts Magazine, the Siena News Alumni Magazine, as well as in the Features and Arts Sections of the Albany Times Union.