“Odysseus built a palace for himself and his bride. He carved the bed in the trunk of an oak tree and then constructed the house around it”
The bed was long and wide and of the dimensions known as queen size. It had a firm mattress and four beautifully lathed, dark walnut posts. It was forged together with steel fastenings strong enough to take the strain of not only years, but feet and hands pressed against headboard and footboard in the heat of passion. It was witness to both the worst and best of what might delicately be termed my “intimate life” for five years. Now as I thought of the bed it elicited in me nauseous fear and repugnance.
My memories of Tim are attached to things; the shape of the bottle of perfume the night I daubed it on and he found me irresistible; the shirt he was wearing the day he proposed. My marriage, the good and bad, the beginning and end, seems intertwined hopelessly with the bed.
I do not think I am inhibited or frigid. This cold nausea I feel when thinking of the bed is certainly not brought on by the thought of lovemaking. Puritanical though I might have been raised, the years of my adolescence included a healthy reading of Solomon’s Songs. Colorful literary images still linger in my mind and feed my desire.
Beloved: I am a wall and my breasts are like towers.
Lover: I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will pick the coconuts.”
Oh yes, that language got my blood pumping in anticipation and day dream. No, it was not the erotic that left distaste when I thought of the bed; it was the sordid, the travesty, the things that should not have been. On the darker side, it was also Solomon’s songs that pointed out,
“Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.”
Then, a few hundred years later, a Christian scribe penned, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: (Hebrews 13:4; KJV).
While thus contemplating ancient literature; I have wondered at times how Penelope must have felt when the bedraggled stranger won her hand, her body, and her empire with his sharp shooting and she knew all was lost. Yet, in a matter of hours, her soul was rewarded consummately for the years of loyalty and patient waiting. The stranger turned out to be her one and only Odysseus. Her heart must have nearly burst when he roared, “What? Has someone moved the bed I fashioned with my own hands in the trunk of a living, growing, oak tree?”
My years of patient waiting and loyalty did not result in a happy ending. My bed was not like Penelope’s bed; strong, undefiled, immovable, hewn from solid, growing oak. How I want to turn my thoughts to noble, filial odyssey. But, no, the tale of my bed is more common than noble; more sordid than grand.
True, he who was my suitor was as grand and well spoken as Mark Anthony. He was also as self-assured as Macbeth and shrewd like Odysseus. Yet he made small effort to plug his ears to the siren call; and less to tie the knot to the main mast of our love.