Brigitte and Jean Luc broke up over a bed. It was a terrible, hard bed with a foam topper. Brigitte would sink into the foam on the regular, her muscles tightening from lack of stability. And even though Jean Luc adored his bed situation, he ultimately sacrificed the foam for her. But she was still unhappy. Without the puke orange, foam topper purchased by his mother, the bed was just too hard. It felt like rocks and hurt her bones. It kept her up at night as he slept soundly. And while she hated the bed wildly, Jean Luc fell in love with the bed all the more ferociously.
Jean Luc was a handsome man with a good head of hair and a house in the Hamptons. He didn’t get on with his critical father which was an ongoing problem, while Brigitte, despite her attempts to be agreeable, was difficult. Or so she had been told by many men.
Brigitte had a pretty, heart-shaped face but struggled with anxiety-induced eczema which appeared as bursts of red across her cheeks and bodice. She was convinced the underlying cause stemmed from the Epstein Bar virus, an auto-immune disease she discovered while reading Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.
But the break up couldn’t possibly have been all about the bed. Jean Luc wanted to take the lead in the relationship and Brigitte was happy to follow—if she wanted to. But often she had her own ideas. For instance, if he wanted to take a nap, she might want to read, if he wanted to take a walk, she might want to take a bath, if he wanted to take the subway after a romantic dinner, she might want to take a cab. He found her impractical and she found him demanding.
The first time he broke up with her over the phone, he cited “incompatibility” differences. Perhaps he was right, but she cried anyways. She missed kissing him and having sex with him, but then she supposed, one day she might meet another man whom she could do that with again too, so she felt a little better. And besides, she still had her own bed, even if she lived in a sliver of space with roommates. That’s when Jean Luc changed his mind and texted her, “I know I blew everything up. But I miss seeing you.”
When they met for drinks, she insisted he use his words to express himself (instead of his hands).
“You don’t put us first,” he said.
“You mean I don’t put you first.” She corrected him.
She was proud he couldn’t get one over her. He cupped her blotchy face. “You’re crazy,” he said, “in the best of ways.”
She decided to go with life and let him kiss her. They stared into each other’s eyes for four minutes straight (he set the timer). That night they made love with the lights on and she discovered, for the first time, his eyes were a deep brown.
They had a wonderful weekend in the Hamptons. There, his bed was soft and supportive, and she slept like a baby. She treated him to breakfast and they looked at each other with renewed purpose; they were both trying to make love work.
“Do you think I’m an angry guy?” he asked her.
“No,” she said affectionately nibbling on his cheek.
But back in Manhattan—-
“Where did you purchase that comfortable bed in the Hamptons again?” she needled.
“Why don’t you just strap the mattress onto the Jitney and bring it back to the City yourself,” he snapped.
“It’s me or the bed,” Brigitte threatened.
“So far the bed is winning,” Jean Luc smirked.
They compromised on a feather bed topper. She sent him links. The weeks went by. Sure, she could have bought the topper herself, but it was the gesture. She wanted to know he cared. Jean Luc confided in a band of his friends. One of them said she’d sleep on the floor for a man she loved. Things weren’t looking good for Brigitte. Her eczema flared up, particularly behind her knees. She tried her best to hide it from Jean Luc. She coated herself with steroid cream and cover-up.
Then one itchy night she said, “I don’t think you get me.”
“I get you more than you think,” he pushed her back onto the bed.
It was through the sex that their roles became clearer, even if extreme. And the bed was perfectly fine for fucking– just not much else. When he would pounce upon her, claim her, order her –they weren’t such a mismatch. She admired his audacity in bed. He’d shake her out of her safe spaces. He’d bring her down under where they’d swim through shame until she’d to come up for air. He cupped her breasts and kissed her neck. She pressed herself back into him and thought, We’re a fit.
“Don’t move. I have to go pee,” she said.
“I want to watch.” He followed her in. ‘My goodness’, she thought.
She sat on the toilet and tried to tinkle. As soon as a little pee came out, he placed his fingers between her legs. But then it stopped.
“I can’t pee when you’re here,” she said.
Another trickle. His hand went back. It stopped again. He ran the same fingers through her hair. Gross.
“Come on,” he whispered, “Pee for Daddy. You can do it. Make Daddy proud.”
She felt a pang. Was it sadness or permission? It was all so deliciously fucked up. It wasn’t mean or cruel. His control was a wall he built which she was determined to climb over. But it was not until that moment that she could really feel the breadth of his need, the weight of all his need for his father’s approval. As he jerked off, she leaned her cheek against his stomach. She opened her heart to him and silently agreed to hold his pain, while he released himself on her back.
“Now you’ll be able to pee.” He walked out and shut the door.
Brigitte couldn’t sleep. The bed. She knocked over the water on the night stand, she layered down bath towels- and then her coat- to cushion the mattress. She tried to sleep on the couch. She itched. She snuck into his closet to find a sweatshirt- she was cold. She knocked over a pile of sweaters. She itched. She thought, “I want a new life.”
In the morning, Brigitte turned to Jean Luc expectantly, “So we’ll get the feather bed topper this week?”
“Good morning to you.” He rolled over. She kissed him until he came around. “You’re like the princess and the pea,” he mused. Perhaps now, more than ever, she was. To her, the discomfort of Jean Luc’s hard, scratchy mattress was as troublesome as the feted pea of folklore was to the fairytale muse. But, ever the optimist, Brigitte had high hopes for the summer. Things would be better for them out East. The sun and the ocean would soothe her inflamed skin and his bed would be so nice. All she had to do was remember to let him take the lead.