It's 11:30, but I can tell by his breathing that he's still not quite asleep. So I lie in wait and try to read. Instead, my eyes slide robotically over the pages as I take a mental inventory of the pantry and fridge, picking my prey. My main consideration is crumbs—once my boyfriend, Josh, has slipped into his nightly Ambien-induced sleep, nothing will wake him, but by unwritten contract, I must leave no evidence for him to discover come morning.
For most of my life, I was what you might call an equal-opportunity bed eater—any food, any bed, any time of day. But it was by and large an unconscious habit, until the day that Josh walked in on me, head thrown back against one of his pillows, a faint smile on my face, and a bag of potato chips in my hand. He wasn't just surprised. He was horrified, disgusted, and genuinely confused—what about the crumbs? he asked. The ants that must surely follow in their footsteps? An animated debate was followed by a poll of his roommates and, eventually, the general public. Bed eating, I discovered, is something of a contentious subject.
To me, though, it's always made sense. It's not that I live in pest-ridden squalor, or lack more conventional spaces in which to eat. There's a method to my madness, an order to my chaos—namely, I spend a lot of time on my bed, and a girl's gotta eat.* I have a sleep disorder, so I need a lot of sleep to begin with. But bed is also where I often write, both for work and for pleasure. Bed is where I read, have occasional fits of crafting (anyone in the market for headbands hot-glued with fake flowers and creepy doll limbs?), and watch an unhealthy amount of television.
* Let it be known, for the sake of clarity and whatever vestige of dignity I have left, that the eating happens on the bed, not under the covers. Usually.
Regardless, I reluctantly accepted that this was one proclivity I'd have to restrict to my own bedroom. I assiduously refrained from contaminating Josh's pristine sheets with my supposed "feral" instincts, save one glorious evening when he drunkenly proposed that we share a bowl of Velveeta mac and cheese in bed, albeit over the covers. It remains one of the best nights of my life and, I believe, one of Josh's most shameful. Afterward, he slapped a proverbial chastity belt on the mattress, and that was that.
All told, we managed just fine until about 18 months ago, when we moved in together. And when a bed eater shares a room with a significant other, there are really only two ways to go: You either double down on the fun, or you cut it out altogether. In this case, there was no question. I was going to have to go cold turkey...hold the turkey (BAZINGA!).
Those early days weren't easy. I'd find myself, knee poised over the mattress, piece of cheese in hand, frozen in Josh's disappointed glare. Retreating, I'd wander the apartment, aimless, antsy. Eating on the couch felt marginally better than a cold, stiff chair at the dining room table, but still, nothing quite replicated the simple, harmonious, mind-numbing pleasure of combining three of my favorite things: eating comfort food, binge-watching TV shows, and lounging on a giant, cushy, pillow-strewn platform like a Greek freakin' goddess.
But since I love Josh most of all, I tried, I really did. Of course, sometimes I'd genuinely forget, or I'd beg and wheedle my way into an exception. And gradually, I wore him down. Compromises were made—for a while, I had a special bed tray, and certain items were crossed off my bed-eating menu (good-bye, potato chips and salads). By the day that Josh came home early from work, though, about six months into our living arrangement, I'd already been cheating for weeks. I looked up guiltily from my computer, grilled cheese sandwich in hand and nary a plate or tray in sight. Seated cross-legged on the bed, surrounded by a halo of crumbs, I gazed into the eyes of my soulmate. He sighed, kissed the top of my head, and said, "Fine, you win."
What can I say? I am a monster.
But I'm also a monster with a conscience. A very ashamed monster, who couldn't bear her saintly boyfriend's expressions of disappointment and mild repulsion. Which is how, with time, we arrived at our current agreement. We bask in the sunny, clichéd glade at the corner of don't ask, don't tell and what you don't know can't hurt you. And in the process, a thoughtless habit has become a one-woman bacchanal. Josh takes his Ambien, and, when the mood strikes, I feast gleefully over his slumbering body, laptop on my pillow and crappy TV blaring through my headphones. I dine on instant ramen or cheesy popcorn or ice cream or olive tapenade with pita chips, and I do so with reckless abandon. And when I'm sated, I proceed to decontaminate the crime scene. I brush away the crumbs and blot up any spills, discard packaging, and wash my dishes. Then, and only then, do I brush my teeth and climb back into bed, snuggle up to Josh, and, finally content, go to sleep.