Suburban Soliloquy #69



Rude Awakening

I woke to the sound of my mother's voice very loudly asking, "Are you still asleep?" I opened my eyes and she was standing over me. "Do you know what time it is?" It is not the kind of thing I'm conscious of when I am unconscious. "It's eleven o'clock!" she informed me, answering her own question. It was bewildering. Why was my mother, who lives several miles distant, in my bedroom alerting me to the time of day?

To better appreciate how upsetting this event was to me, I need to explain that I am especially shy about my naked body, and, during these hot summer days, because we don't have air-conditioning, I am given to sleeping naked on top of the sheets. Knowing that my daughter and my mother have keys to the house, I am fearful of the prospect of my daughter, my grandson, or my mother gaining entry to the bedroom and seeing me when I am the least presentable. Despite promises from my more significant other, Ms Keogh, to prevent it, I have had my grandson wake me many times. Once it was my daughter. Now it was my mother. So far I have been fortunate, each time I just happened to be adequately covered by the sheet. Still, having someone in the house and able to get this close to me without my being aware is deeply disturbing.

"Okay, so it's eleven o'clock; why did you want me to know this?" I asked my mother.

"Do you know what time your niece's flight is?"


"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know." But she did know. My niece told her what time her plane was departing. And later, when we were driving back from the airport, she admitted to knowing, but that morning she was anxious and feared that I had forgotten. Why did she think I would forget? Weeks before my niece arrived, I had arranged to pick her up and later return her to the airport. I even took the day off from work to be available to drive her. That I was at home in bed and not at the office was further proof I had remembered. Only my mother thought I was not at home. I didn't answer the telephone when she had called. When she came over, she did not find my car in the driveway. Ms Keogh, the only human other than a doctor that I can tolerate seeing me naked, and she's none too thrilled about it, had decided to let me sleep late. I have not been sleeping well these last three weeks, anxious about being forced off the midnight-to-eight tour by a colleague with more seniority who also wanted it. I've begun working days. Ms Keogh, who I had promised to drive to work, decided to borrow my car to go out to do errands and have coffee. We usually stopped en route for coffee and donuts when I drive her to work, but she was allowing me more time in bed because I was sleeping so soundly- so soundly that I didn't hear the telephone in the next room when my mother called, didn't hear my mother enter the house and yell out for me.

"Why didn't you at least call me last night to tell me when you'd be over?" my mother complained. I explained how I'd tried to call, but the line was constantly busy. My niece was on the telephone to her significant other back on the West Coast. I told my mother I would collect her and my niece at one:thirty. My mother apologized, continued with her apologies, and telling me to go back to sleep, she began to back out of the bedroom. However, she did not manage to reach the bedroom door. She felt bad and didn't like feeling bad about herself. It wasn't until I could clear my head and convincingly absolve her from waking me, to get her to believe I was sincere, only then did she finally retreat, leaving me wide-awake and grumpy.

After she was gone, I climbed out of bed and dressed, was buttoning my shirt when Ms Keogh returned home. Being grumpy, I took it out on my dearest friend, who had only wanted to permit me to sleep longer.

I drove Ms Keogh to her job in Philadelphia. I then picked up my mother and my niece, taking them to a leisurely lunch in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I drove particularly slowly along the New Jersey Turnpike to consume the excess time. We arrived at the Newark Airport two hours before my niece's flight.

During the drive back, I explained to my mother about my shyness and sleeping nude. "Oh, I would never, never dare enter the bedroom if you were naked," she insisted. I asked how would she know beforehand unless she first came in and inspected. She changed the subject.

The subject continued to interest me. I was reminded of another rude awakening nearly fifty years ago, when I was three or four years old. My parents took me to a nursing home to visit my paternal grandmother. I didn't like the place, it had a bad smell. My father took me outside to the small, enclosed yard in front of the building. I fell asleep in his lap. I awoke in the lap of a living corpse, a foul-smelling old man with no teeth who was stroking my head. That was the beginning of my distrust of my parents. How bizarre that I should still remember, and how utterly wrong that I have not yet recovered from that seemingly insignificant trauma. Why are we like this?

Meanwhile, let this be a warning to family and friends. Be careful, for I am a writer of monthly columns and everything is grist for the mill.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 69 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"