Alex and the Purple Bed Sheet
I lived in limbo in New York City. I had walked off of the graduation platform in May 2019, but it wasn’t until October that I reached a place where I could firmly cement my next step. My accommodation in the city reflected the restless in-betweenness I found myself in that summer.
I slept on a couch in the living room of my god family’s home. A trip on the subway, a ride on the bus, a walk down the block, and an ascent upstairs brought me each night to the spot that marked the day’s end.
Light purple was the shade of last summer’s sleep.
Half-awake on the A Train, my half-open eyes would see my stop at the end of the line through lids tinted a cool lavender like the fabric of the bed sheet I returned home to.
The sheet served no practical purpose. New York City’s soupy, August nights made any blanket a burden, any cover a cage, any sheet a slave driver forcing submission to a sticky slumber, but in the absence of a bed and the absence of a bedroom, my borrowed bed sheet became one of the most important objects of my summer, second only to the ceiling fan.
Each time I’d unfold that sheet and lay it out over the couch’s cushions, the room was remade. Social space became sleeping space, cushions became pillows, and suddenly, my bedroom was born.
With only that thin layer of light purple, my domain was announced to the dark skies, and no one dared disturb me until the morning’s light came peeking in through the blinds.
The dog and I would take turns on the couch, and when 7am signaled the end of the nightshift, she would wait impatiently for me to remove my sheet. I would never move fast enough for her. On those days, which were many, when I would arrive very late at night, I would not be ready to sacrifice my spot at seven.
Extreme caution was necessary on mornings like these. If I was not stealthy enough, as I slipped away to the restroom for a quick mid-sleep pee, I would return to find that Ella had trespassed upon my wrinkled rectangle of lavender.
A stern smack on the butt and a yank on the sheet would normally be enough to send her on her way. Briskly, I would wipe her black fur off and onto the carpet and try to go back to bed. Whenever I awoke, she would be there, lying on the carpet among the furs I’d swept away, nearly asleep herself and watching me resentfully out of the corner of her chestnut-colored eyes.
Sometimes, I would see the sunrise as I stepped off onto the elevated platform of my A Train station. The passengers on the bus would say “good morning” to the driver as they stuck their metro cards into the machine.
For sleepless me though, the golden sunlight seemed purple, and while the rest of New York was waking, I still dreamed of my sheet, which awaited me after the bus, down the block, and up the stairs.
Early in the morning, I would always arrive too late. Ella would be there with her moonlight white paws and midnight black body farting and drooling all over my bed couch.
With my brain gone astray in a purple haze, words were out of reach. It would take all of me to muster the grunts and growls I’d attack Ella with on these mornings. Ella knows that she is better at dog speak than I am, and she would oppose me with her own snaps and grunts and growls.
Frightened by her fluency, I’d retreat and counterattack with powerful pillow blows against her body. Unable to pillow fight back, Ella would let out one last, desperate growl before cowering away in defeat. Triumphantly, I would extend my purple flag of victory over my reconquered terrain.
Most times, our interactions were not so dramatic. The sheet spread, and I slept. That was the way things were. Since then though, things have changed.
Well-known are the legends of Linus and his blue blanket and Harold and his purple crayon, but the relationship between Alex and his purple bed sheet is like neither. Linus grows out of his blanket, and Harold falls asleep with his purple crayon beside him.
My bed sheet and I have not moved on like Linus. Yet, we have not kept close like Harold and his crayon. Rather, our’s is a relationship destined to be distanced.
Today, nearly a month since summer’s end, I have moved away from New York City, and I have left my bed sheet behind. Light purple was the shade of last summer’s sleep, but now, it is autumn, and the shades of my sheets have shifted with the winds.
A car ride, a flight, another flight, and another ride in another car have led me to where I now lie, a place where sleep on plastic A Train seats has been replaced by sleep on leather Japan Airlines seats, and my white sheets are now tucked into a real bed.
Here in Hanoi, with the bright blackness of New York City nights 11 shades of sky away, it is likely that I may never enjoy another night on my beautiful, borrowed bed sheet, but that is okay because, even as I venture to sleep upon the unknown sheets of foreign beds in far-off lands, my dreams are still lavender. My half-open eyes still see purple. No passing day will dim the memory of my faded, wrinkled rectangle. No amount of nights spent slumbering underneath other covers shall soften the sweetness of this summertime story of boy and bed sheet.