Flavor of the Week: A Lasting Impression

Written by John Blahnik on . Posted in Posts.

After my roommate told me about his latest late-night shenanigans—a new girl this time and something about a hockey jersey— he didn’t bother asking if I’d had any adventures. He just looked at my bed and there it was: an imprint of one body in memory foam. The story of my night.

The summer after sophomore year of college, a last-minute credit problem made me cancel plans to study abroad and stay on campus. I had to buy my first bed. A few minutes on Craigslist, and I was talking to a guy who was leaving town the next day, desperate to sell his Tempur- Pedic off-brand and willing to help with the move. I didn’t even negotiate.

What I didn’t realize, though, is that when you’re single (and bad with girls), you don’t want a bed with a good memory. Nothing that happens in there makes you proud. It’s all best forgotten, and when your bed consists of old memory foam that, though still very comfortable, no longer regains its shape—your lone outline preserved for hours, like chalk around the body, evidence of no game—you wish your bed had Alzheimer’s.

A few of my roommates had running bets on the appearance of that second imprint. Because I was late looking for appropriate accommodations, my options were limited, and I was subletting a room in a fraternity house. It was just as good as studying abroad. The brothers spoke a different language (no first names, only surnames) and had a different religion (worshipping at the altar of alcohol, with girls as their idols). And, as far as I could tell, they were spectacularly good with those girls.

The frat house opened into the living room, so after I’d call it a night—arriving home and turning on the TV—I’d be interrupted by the parade: keys rattling outside, the door bursting open, a brother and his latest lady striding past, followed by silence; then more keys, more paraders. Six guys, six girls, every night. At first I found it entertaining, the way a madam in a bordello must: Everyone paired off, about to get laid. But gradually I grew embarrassed. Is it really everyone but me? By the second week, when a couple slammed through the door, they’d see no one. I’d be cowering in my room, out of breath, still thinking about the sound of the keys that sent me sprinting for cover.

Ignoring them was impossible. The walls and floors were thin, and I had the one first-floor room, with all those beds above me sporadically creaking and sliding. When I heard it above my room, I knew it was Jake in his massive wooden bed, its thumps few, but resonant. If I heard it in the kitchen, it was Kent or Jack, small beds with spring mattresses that made slight, but frequent, squeaks—suggesting frightening stamina. And if it came from above the bathroom, I knew it was Casey in his misassembled IKEA bed, which I hoped would collapse midsession. Their beds were noisy and talked them up. My bed was silent and mocked me the next day.

Eventually my mattress recorded more than just me. If you looked at it on the right July afternoon—looked at it quickly— you might have seen the dimples where two asses (listening to music) had been. The imprints the following night would have been harder to interpret, half-bodies, scattered and shallow (lounging around, making plans). But by August, they would tell a clear story. I had a girlfriend.

Toward the end of the month, the two of us decided to go on a road trip. After we packed at my place, I had an idea. I put a glass of wine on the mattress and dropped my bag right next to it. We started hammering our bags into the bed, jumping on it, and the wine still wouldn’t spill. When we finished, the mattress was filled with indents.

“An orgy,” I said. She gestured toward where the largest ones connected: “No, just one obese girl.”

We’re still together, my girlfriend and I, and our recent New York move has left us without a real mattress. Lying on our airbed last night, she complained and went on Craigslist. I know she could choose anything and I’d be fine.