Dormitory Night

When he’s away, I clean the kitchen at 10 p.m. The house sleeps around me while I sop up crumbs and shuttle coffee cups into the dishwasher, but my martyr act falters when I remember that shining counter tops have only ever been for myself. He would tell me to go to bed, so I do… once every accessible surface smells like lemon.

When he’s away, I make a nest of our bed, my bare toes wriggling puppy-joy under the covers, and settle in with late night guitars and peppermint tea. (More than one longing glance goes to the Chimay stash, but that’s ours, and some unwritten pacts are not to be broken.) I can never decide whether I relax best by reading or by writing, so I waltz between the two as minutes slip by in the lamplight.

When he’s away, I tell myself that this will be the time I take advantage of his absence—transform overnight into a monk and spin productivity out of the silent pre-dawn—but it never feels like an advantage at midnight when his side of the bed is still cold and I can’t remember how to sleep alone. I wait until the lowness of the hours makes my head spin. It’s the feeling of oxygen deprival, of dormitory nights.

When he’s away, I tuck a pillow under the covers where his chest would be and keep this contour of us, together warm until he’s home.


Those of you whose significant other travels frequently, how do you adjust in his or her absence?


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  1. My husband doesn’t travel, and I have not had many nights like that. I do remember one night over a year ago that he took the kids camping overnight. I stayed up until 3 AM reading. And I left the TV volume up after 9:00. I thought it was awesome. Until I got that call at 6:30 AM to meet them for breakfast. I was not the only one tired the next day.

  2. I enjoy the space in the bed to stretch out for a few days (we have a REALLY small bed), and I don’t mind that he doesn’t wake me up (even though unintentionally) late at night or early in the morning, but after a few days, it gets really old. And it’s far too often for my taste. Although, having the WHOLE house to myself this week has been really great. Single parenting is no fun but 6 days of temporary family-free-ness definitely has its upside!

  3. my fist husband travelled quite a bit. it was different depending on the amt of time he was away – 1 night, 2 nights, 3 or more nights. it took years to get used to. eventually, much prayer and singing praise songs at night helped.

    my ‘new’ husband is very rarely gone, but when he is, i’m jelly all over.

    when i divorced i had plans for using the time my girls were with their dad every other weekend productively, but i found myself sleeping away the time; it was easier to sleep than to hurt. i still sleep a lot when my girls are gone with their dad, and i still have all these un-done plans, though i’m getting better about giving myself the freedom not to have to do anything spectacular when they’re gone. the worst is over holidays when they’re gone for a week b/c he won’t let me see them at all when they’re with him.

    i think some things we just endure the best we can … some things we simply get used to, and a few things we conquer and overcome. when my wonderful new husband is gone, i simply endure the best i can.

  4. My man and I were apart for three years while I saved up to get to Australia. We only got to see each other once in that time and it was killer. Looking back I don’t know how we did it, but I’m so glad we did. 🙂 We Skyped a lot. My favorite times were when we would just turn Skype on and he would work on his stuff and I would work on mine, he’d have coffee, I’d have tea, and now and then we’d look up to smile and say, “I love you.” He would call and read aloud to me when I was sick. I’d interrupt him at work with flirtations phone calls to make him blush. 🙂 They’re all just little things, but they help. 🙂

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