Empty Bed Blues

I can hear the beanbag chair rustle as she levers herself out of it. The brisk strides to the bathroom, the slamming door, the silence. The toilet flushes, the door opens, three steps, the crunch of beads and the chimes as she unpauses the game to continue her immersion into Link's latest adventure.

I'm upstairs in the tub, soaking my bruised ribs after two weeks of intense coughing finally wore my body down. Breathing is uncomfortable, laughter is a slight sting and the inevitable cough that follows is a sharp jab in the side. I haven't had a quiet moment to myself for a while. Too little occupying my mind tends to bring my focus back to the itch in my lungs, the little cough-goblin trying to claw its way out of my throat with every exhale.

I climb out of the bath and wince as I try to dry off without actually touching my aching side. I want to tell her I'm ready for bed, but I don't know if I can handle seeing my own selfishness reflected back at me again.

I think about watching her play. Her face still with concentration; her mouth opens a little as she leans forward. She doesn't respond to casual conversation once she's in deep. Direct questions are acknowledged with a slightly annoyed quip -- anything to satisfy my attention so she can get on with playing.

I gingerly make my way down the stairs, the sounds of epic music and a horse galloping grow louder with each step. I can already feel my mind slipping into the well worn track of our conversations the last few nights. I shuffle into the living room and keep my eyes locked on her, careful to avoid looking at the TV and spoiling any surprises the game may have in store for me. She's about 30 hours further than I am.

"Hey," I say. "It's 2AM, I think I'm going to bed."

She doesn't respond. I think she heard me; her eyebrow twitched.

"Acknowledge that you heard me," I say, like I'm speaking to a drunk. "Last night you were surprised at how late it was an hour after I'd already told you."

"Yes, I heard you," she says with a smirk, her expression melting back into neutral as the last syllable passes her lips.

"Ok, good night."

I lean forward to kiss her. She shies away reflexively, staring intently at the screen.

It's my turn to slog up the stairs alone. To make the bed and climb into the cold sheets, listening to the distant swish of swords and grunting enemies. I am Karla, staring at the dark ceiling and listening to her husband obliterate pixels as if they were more important than that state we sometimes reach just before sleep, when we have our best conversations.

This is what she's done hundreds of times before, only rarely complaining when a game keeps me up too many nights in a row.

I'm not used to lying in an empty bed. Usually it would be me sliding in after playing games for half the night, enjoying the pre-warmed covers and watching her breathe softly. I would revel in those moments of feeling so damn lucky to be with this beautiful, tolerant woman. Seeing it from the other side, it casts my game playing into a different light. It makes me burn with shame for not seeing it sooner.

I lay awake for an hour. I don't sleep well at the best of times; sleeping alone is even worse. Eventually the sound stops. I hear her turn off the lights and tip toe up the stairs. She brushes her teeth and quietly slips into bed, trying not to disturb me. I'm awake, but I keep my breathing regular, playing into her assumption. I don't want to chide her or ask how the game is. I just want to curl up around this guilty feeling and remember it very well.

Comments

zeroKFE wrote:

Hell, you might even be able to kick that awful caffeine habit. ;)

Never!

Propagandalf wrote:

My I remember that guilty feeling back in the day, though.

Won't be running into you late at night in BF 42 anymore?

*sniffle*

Quintin_Stone wrote:

I managed to get pneumonia once each year. It was hell, but a great workout for my abs.

I am amazed at your ability to put a positive spin on practically anything.

(bows)

I don't have this problem because...be....because......

Oh! I'm so lonely!

All better.

McChuck wrote:

I don't have this problem because...be....because......

Oh! I'm so lonely!

All better.

I was going to try and mock all these folks for living with someone they love.

Things I live with that I love:

  • The newer computer ("Panthro" because the case is grey with blue LEDs)
  • The older computer ("Lazarus" was built by Dell back when Win ME was the only option, but now runs Ubuntu)
  • The 360 -- Let's call her "Shirley"
  • About 70 GB of legitimate mp3s
  • My Kitchen.
  • An assorted collection of broken dreams
  • A few fire-hazards worth of books
  • My loneliness

Sometimes at night playing games from my couch I start to miss my pillow. I've almost called, "I'll be right there in a minute!" a couple times.

shihonage wrote:

I am amazed at your ability to put a positive spin on practically anything.

(bows)

It's true! Nothing like uncontrollable coughing fits that leave you nauseous and gasping for breath every minute of the day to really firm up those abdominal muscles.

wordsmythe wrote:

Sometimes at night playing games from my couch I start to miss my pillow.

Trust me, that would parse a lot better with a few line breaks.

Oh and PS: I wouldn't take my list too seriously. Especially the fire hazard part -- I've got most of my books on shelves these days. The final and antepenultimate entries on the list are mostly there because I've read too much Li-Young Lee recently.

wordsmythe wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Sometimes at night playing games from my couch I start to miss my pillow.

Trust me, that would parse a lot better with a few line breaks.

Oh and PS: I wouldn't take my list too seriously. Especially the fire hazard part -- I've got most of my books on shelves these days. The final and antepenultimate entries on the list are mostly there because I've read too much Li-Young Lee recently.

Wait... Did you just quote yourself? I thought that would cause an infinite loop or nullity or something...

Stylez wrote:

Wait... Did you just quote yourself? I thought that would cause an infinite loop or nullity or something... :)

No, you melt into a pile of goo - like in Timecop.

Great article, really captured the suffering.

I didn't get past the part of Certis soaking in a tub. That mental image terminated my reading program.

Very good article Certis. My wife discovered 'Hexic' on the 360 a few months back and hasn't let up yet, so I'm all to familiar with your trek up the stairs.

Great Article. The woman I love is a non gamer and there have been nights that she has gone to bed alone.

Torn between guilt a my own gaming habits and wondering how my wife might take to that new Zelda game you mentioned.

Gamers I know tuck their wives into bed. It sounds childish but definitely isn't. Best of both worlds.

Good work, Certis. So good in fact that I've noticed no one has discussed the picture. That is internet respect, son!

My game systems are usualy in the bedroom so even when my lady stays up playing I can still curl up around her; and when the games are in the living room I stretch out in front of her, lay my head in her lap and slumber.

...And those times that realy want her to lay down with me I do something like gently poke her with my finger and playfully tell her that I would have did better at what ever it was she had just done.... especially when she just did something like getting a Perfect or just chose her character. Or when I get up to go in to bed I lean in and whisper sensually in her ear that without her beautiful face being the last thing I see before my eyelids are too exhausted to allow me that privilege and joy that I might end up dreaming about Aeris instead of her.

souldaddy wrote:

Good work, Certis. So good in fact that I've noticed no one has discussed the picture. That is internet respect, son!

Respect? Is that the word?

wordsmythe wrote:

Respect? Is that the word?

Yes, but it's spelled Respek.

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Alien13z wrote:

History repeats itself

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/7394

I thought this was vaguely familiar.

That said I'm glad I don't suffer from guilt.

Excellent perspective piece, Certis. I certainly share in the guilt for this one!

Unrelated note. "Better Organized Tyranny", you need to stick around so you can get to 1000 posts. Your custom tag obviously needs to be "Through Chemistry"

That was awesome. I haven't been on the other side of the coin, seeing that my wife does not game, but I can guess what it is like.

Thank god for tolerant women.

Certis: Write more often.

Seconded. Certis, a big thank you for posting the other side of this. And with extreme eloquence. It's that level of unafraid honesty that really makes me love coming back here.

I was married prior to Tyrian. The ex game widowed me badly. Then I turned around and game widowed the rest of the known universe... him, friends, relatives, cute puppies only houses away... it wasn't out of spite, but out of loneliness and boredom. Now, I have a deep respect for anyone who can catch themselves and moderate the behavior. It's certainly not easy!

You're both very lucky to have one another.

souldaddy wrote:

Gamers I know tuck their wives into bed. It sounds childish but definitely isn't. Best of both worlds.

It has definitely worked well for me! When my lady is ready to hit the sack, I usually take a break from whatever I'm doing, cuddle up with her in bed for 20-30 minutes till she's fading out, and then I kiss her goodnight and head to my late night gaming sessions. While she does wish I would stay, I think this strategy has softened the blow of not being there with her!

Let me add my 'thanks' Certis. Great article. Although I'm not quite that bad, there are times and this makes me give it more of a 'pause for reflection' moment.

Hope you and your Dad get to feeling better soon.

edit: meh, nevermind.

It has definitely worked well for me! When my lady is ready to hit the sack, I usually take a break from whatever I'm doing, cuddle up with her in bed for 20-30 minutes till she's fading out, and then I kiss her goodnight and head to my late night gaming sessions. While she does wish I would stay, I think this strategy has softened the blow of not being there with her!

I'm somewhat relieved that I'm not the only one who does this

On the heels of an evil argument with my fiance (completely unrelated to gaming) this was a good piece to read Certis. You do need to write more. So do I for that matter, just havn't been particularly inspired since college. This entire thread has been inspiring though, relationship-wise.

One thing that does inspire me is my fiance, and pillow talk has no substitute. I wish I could write about her the way you can about your wife, but I'm not able to for some reason. Don't know what that means.

Great read Certis. I now understand how one of my exes felt and also why I feel the need to go to sleep at the same time as my gf - who will one day be my wife. She's not into gaming but shares all of my other interests, so my gaming time is very limited and though I am still eager to play GOW and VP, I'd much rather fall asleep with her so that I'm in a good frame of mind in the morning.

You've captured the feeling of guilt perfectly. Next time I actually have the urge to stay up all night and game, I'll think twice about it, and likely follow my current routine - early to bed and early to rise, sleeping and waking with my gf.

My wife has discovered online forums so we even out going to bed later than the other. This removes any guilt I have.

That said I do strictly limit any nights I play beyond midnight to maybe once every 3 or 4 weeks and I don't play games more than 2 or 3 nights a week.

I've argued that watching the same sh*te on television together doesn't necessarily mean much but it doesn't wash and she's probably right.

TheWanderer wrote:

On the heels of an evil argument with my fiance (completely unrelated to gaming) this was a good piece to read Certis. You do need to write more. So do I for that matter, just havn't been particularly inspired since college. This entire thread has been inspiring though, relationship-wise.

One thing that does inspire me is my fiance, and pillow talk has no substitute. I wish I could write about her the way you can about your wife, but I'm not able to for some reason. Don't know what that means.

Necro of a thread from 2006 means I get to read this again. Intriguing stuff.