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It took three of us to get a king size mattress stuffed into the tiny service elevator, pushing our shoulders into it so it would finally give and bend. It sprung out when the doors opened, like a sponge that's gotten wet and no longer fits. We leaned it down slowly onto a queen-sized bed frame, let it go to a loud thud and rattle of wood. A good ten inches of it spilled out on either side, dwarfing the headboard and the tiny apartment.

It’s fine.

The delivery guys looked at me dubiously. I thanked them.

I always found a reason to move. Burning one life down, rebuilding another, never losing the aplomb of hope this time it would stick, even as I sold the furniture I chose carefully and painstakingly to build a home that suddenly and familiarly meant nothing.

I moved through cities, countries, continents. I sought out men I could drown in trying to fix. I dressed like my partners, sometimes picked up their accents. I began reshaping my life around them as soon as they arrived.

I loved beer. I never drank beer. I was a family girl. I was independent. You need money? I'll find some. Take mine. Show me the slightest sign of affection and I'll mold right into you.

So I organize them by the mattresses. Divide up the phases of my life by my beds.


I still sleep on the expensive king sized with memory foam from when I got engaged. There was the old queen my aunt gave me when I first moved countries for a man. A used double off an internet ad when I had roommates and loved that bartender. A twin when my father had to sell the house. A different queen I negotiated a discount for in cash when I lived alone in my first decent apartment. I painted those walls charcoal grey to prove I’d stay. I paid extra to have them coated four times back to white. I bought new sheets for each new life.

There were tearful fights with men in my bed. There would be screaming at them to go and begging them to stay. There would be rough sex, the only kind I knew, strands of my hair littering the pillows as my sore body rose in the morning.

There would be Egyptian cotton sheets when I had money, scratchy thick purple ones I rarely washed when I did not. Thick with the smell of sex. It smelled like adulthood to me.


I had a gorgeous, passionate boyfriend for most of my twenties. He drank too much and loved to fuck. Early on after we met, we visited his family in the Brazilian countryside. We drove for hours as Gal Costa played on the radio, my hair stuck to my sweaty neck as I slept in the front seat, my toes leaving greasy prints on the dash. We slept in a small, detached room behind the main house. It had a dark green metal door and barely fit a twin bed which we shared and a tiny bathroom where you had to pull a string and pour water down the toilet to flush. The floor was filthy. Old dusty records leaned on the windowsills.

He was asleep, drunk. I found photos on his flip phone of what looked like a brothel. I woke him up, hysterical. He twisted my wrist until I let go of the phone and scrambled on my knees to the bathroom. I still have nightmares about trying and failing to get the tiny latch to shut as he crashed in, screaming and leaving huge, deep bruises on my arms. His parents pretended not to hear me scream.

When I have those dreams, the latch falls off in my hands. He always gets through the door.

That mattress was so soft it felt like I was in a roll of bread. Suffocating. We went back there many times, sometimes for Carnaval. I’d dress up, wearing rainbow clip-on hair extensions and dancing with his baby cousins in the square. I never was able to fall asleep there, lying awake staring at the pockmarked ceiling.


I tipped the delivery guys and made my new bed, trying to remember what happened to that queen sized one. I could really use now. Most of them I sold or gave away if I was in a rush. Leaving them on curbs with my good intentions. Making fresh plans before I even reached the door. Some lived in storage for a while, keeping my boxed books company, wrapped carelessly in plastic, a fitted sheet still halfway on. A ghost of memory of another last night.

When I finally broke up with that boyfriend, he cried desperately in a different bed than the one he’d hit me in, seeming smaller than he really was, squeezing too tight as he laid in a desperate fetal position, his wet breath on my neck, arms clung around my torso.

I stretched out on the overflowing mattress in my new apartment in the West Village. My new off-white sheets to fit the king-size bed were pulled tight. My rescued books sat in a crooked pile on the floor next to it. Sloane Crossley, Simone De Beauvoir, Sappho translations. Their boxes stacked by the door, waiting to be broken down. 

I felt proud of myself for sticking with this one. For schlepping it from a storage unit in the Bronx all the way to my fresh new start. I had toyed with the idea of buying a new one that was the right size, but I was committed this time.

I opened the heavy window, the city noise comforting in my loneliness. A neon sign read Psychic glowed off the wall of the brick building next door, washing my bed in red.