One of the hardest things about a seperation, I think, is sleeping alone.

When you’ve been together for years, you just plain get used to having somebody else in the bed. You’ve worked out all the negotiations of sleep–whose arm goes where, which knee goes on top, whose feet stick out, what part you poke to keep the other person from snoring. And then it’s not there any more, and you’re left feeling vaguely as if you’d spent years negotiating an elaborate and complicated peace treaty with a nation which suddenly decided to close borders and become an isolationist state.

Ben is definitely saving me. Having another living being around does something to the human brain. We’re stronger in the company of other people, as much out of pride, I suspect, as anything more noble. It even works, to a certain extent, with a cat.

It would be nice to say that he sits on my pillow and purrs, but frankly, Ben is not that kind of cat. (He is, for example, the only cat I’ve owned who belches regularly, generally when I’m petting him.) Once I’ve gone to bed, usually with a book, Ben comes, plops down between my feet, and begins to groom himself.

There are cats who groom themselves with quiet grace, tongues flicking neatly over dainty paws, paws slipping over sleek fur.

Ben is not that kind of cat, either. Ben grooming himself is a wet, smacking, slurping affair not unlike fish being processed, and he takes his time. I can generally get a couple of chapters read before he is satisfied that his belly fur is sufficiently clean (or at least soggy.) Then it’s on to the shoulder, or the back leg, or in times of special celebration, the genitals.

When he’s finished grooming for the evening, the slurp-smack-smack-slurp noise stops at last. Then he flops back across my ankle, heaves an enormous sigh–hygiene is exhausting–and goes to sleep.

I can’t say it’s a graceful affair, but there’s also never any question as to whether I’m alone in the bed, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

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