Monday, June 17, 2013

Tickle Trauma

1,832 nights. That's how often I've slept alone since my divorce. Yes, I did the math, and yes, the number seems staggeringly high. I have filled "his side" of the bed with art projects, cookbooks, stuffed animals, magazines, tissue boxes, laundry waiting to be folded, and my cats. Nothing works. Nothing takes the place of a real man in bed with you, wrapping his arms around you at night, snuggling so close you can feel his warmth against your skin. I used to believe that no matter what my husband and I were going through at the time, if we could only come to bed together at night and cuddle, we could fight off the world, fight off our troubles, fight off whatever came between us and kept us apart. I believed that going to bed together every night helped us fight for each other instead of with each other. It wasn't until I realized that more often than not, one or both of us wasn't coming home at night. He stayed at work, I stayed with friends. He stayed out drinking, I stayed with family. I simply couldn't bear the thought that we had stopped sharing a bed and we stopped fighting for our relationship. It wasn't long at all until our separation carried over from the bedroom to our marriage and he moved out. With a few short breaks along the way, I've been sleeping alone ever since.

Being single during the day is flecked with moments of absolute awesomeness, exquisite joy, and unadulterated freedom. Sleeping alone is the constant reminder that being single also means being lonely and cold on a nightly basis.

I despise being lonely and cold.

Shortly after Jason officially declared himself to be my boyfriend, I knew that I wanted to take our relationship to the next level. It was time for a grown up sleepover. I packed an overnight bag for two nights (just in case) and headed to his place for the weekend. We planned a relaxing three movie marathon watching Lord of the Rings, tons of take out food, and long getting-to-know-you talks. On Friday night, we stayed up watching the first half of the first film, with Jason explaining the characters and plot and back story to me, just like he did when we went to see The Hobbit. His patient teaching voice was so calming. I burrowed myself snuggly against his chest with his comforting arm around me, completely content to just sit and be with him. We felt like a totally normal couple chilling on the couch, a sense of contentment washing over me like a hot shower. All my muscles unclenched as I sank deeper into the couch, deeper into Jason's arms, and deeper in love with him.

After the film ended, we did the getting ready for bed dance around each other. He changed into pj's while I brushed my teeth and got water. I got into pj's while he brushed his teeth and got water. (Granted, my pajamas were infinitely cuter than his.) Without going into too much detail (my mom reads this blog after all!) we stayed up all night getting to know each other really, really well. Jason's sweetness, sincerity, playfulness, and generosity carried over seamlessly from day to night. He took very good care of me, and I fell soundly asleep with no complaints. More importantly, I fell asleep with his arms wrapped around me, just like I'd been hoping for. There was no false advertising with Jason. He was precisely the champion snuggle buddy he promised me he was. He held me as we drifted off, his arm around my waist, his face against my hair, holding me so close to him that we felt like one body. It was the first in 1,800 nights that I didn't feel cold and lonely. For once, I was warm and completely at peace.

The good thing about Jason is that when he's not a complete workaholic, he loves sleeping in. I am grateful for this because I am the antithesis of a morning person. To lie in late together on a Saturday morning was pure heaven. At some point, I knew that he had stirred but I refused to shake the sleepiness off of me and disturb the cocoon we'd made of blankets, arms, and legs. Jason began running his fingers lightly over my body, playing with my back, my sides, my stomach. Every place he touched got tingly in anticipation of more, wanting all of him all over all of me. I hadn't been this close, this intimate, this trusting with a man in years. Jason knew me, saw through all the parts of me I tried to hide, called me out on my bull shit, accepted and appreciated every inch of me. Jason got me, and there is no greater feeling in the world than feeling gotten.

That's a lie. Being woken up with sex feels pretty damn great too.

Because we are both giant children at heart, Jason's touching soon turned to tickling and if there's one thing I take seriously, it is a tickle fight. We never quite got to the morning sex portion of the weekend because what started out so sweet and sensual evolved into who could tickle who harder while escaping being tickled themselves. If I haven't mentioned it sooner, Jason is a 6'4 farm boy from Kansas, easily twice my weight, and built for hard labor. (He works in an office now, but he used to throw hay bales which turns me on every time I picture it!) Needless to say, he's incredibly strong and I had essentially no chance of escaping his playful grasp. Each time I'd try to wriggle out of his tickle hold, he would laugh this deep, hearty, guttural laugh and comment about how cute it was that I thought I could really break away while he held me even tighter. I thought I had a quick out for a half a second, and in one swift movement, I jumped backwards away from him, landing square against the wall. I smacked my head so hard, I may have blacked out. I didn't entirely know what was happening, only that I was in instant pain, and the look on his face changed from silly and teasing to shock and fear in the blink of an eye.

Jason grabbed my face in his hands and asked if I was ok. All I could muster were a few "Ow"s and "That really hurt." He rubbed the back of my head where I hit it and rocked me close in his arms as the silent tears began to fall. "I have a headache" I cried, and he held me closer. He gently lowered me down onto the pile of pillows, sliding out of bed to get me water and ibuprofen. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed some more until I took the medicine and fell asleep. Jason laid down right alongside me, his body pressed against mine, kissing my poor aching head and apologizing over and over and over.

I woke up several hours later in a fog, my limbs feeling like they were filled with lead. My eyes couldn't focus and my head was pounding. I asked for more Tylenol and Jason suggested I might have a concussion. I had hit the wall so hard and with such force that it was a distinct possibility. I didn't know anything about concussions, having never had one, but I didn't want to ruin our weekend together. I protested that I was fine, I just needed something for the pain. He attended to me hand and foot for the next 48 hours. I was hungry so he made me waffles, lightly toasted with butter and syrup, just the way I like them. I was thirsty so he made me herbal tea with a little bit of sugar in an oversized mug, just the way I like it. I was tired so he piled pillows up on the couch and tucked me in under a blanket, sitting by my feet and rubbing them to help me relax. We spent all night watching the second Lord of the Rings film, and Sunday watching the third one. I called home to tell them I'd hit my head but didn't think it was a big deal. My mom asked if I wanted to go to the hospital but you couldn't have dragged me away from Jason's caring, protective arms with a thousand horses, so I declined. His face never strayed from the look that said "Are you *sure* you're ok?" but he humored me that I just needed to rest and relax for a while which we did in spades. Barring the injury, we had a wonderful weekend together, and I hated to leave him on Sunday night. I still don't recall anything about how I got home and I shouldn't have been allowed to drive, but we didn't know that then. I wound up in the emergency room the next morning as the pain was simply too much to bear. I had lost some motor functions, speech, and my short term memory. A series of CT scans showed that I had a Level Three concussion which lasted another six weeks. The doctors say that I should heal eventually but there is a bruise on my brain and I may feel the effects for quite some time, including dizziness, headaches, memory and word loss.

No matter how much time passed, Jason was sweeter than I could've imagined, taking great care of me in any way he could. While I wouldn't wish a concussion on anyone, I do hope that no matter what ails you, there's someone as amazing as Jason by your side to hold you, to kiss you, and maybe even to tickle you.

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