Living across the country from the man you love can be a challenge. For this reason, my fiancé and I set up a routine: a nightly phone call in which to share events from our days, spend some time in prayer, and read a good book. We began (several years ago, now) with the “Harry Potter” series and, since then, have made our way through “The Hobbit”, “Emma”, “Pride and Prejudice” (I think) and most of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. It’s a deeply enjoyable ritual which I imagine will follow us long into our marriage… provided my midnight mumblings don’t prevent us from getting that far.
I admit that one of the reasons I enjoy the practice is that my fiancé has one of those naturally relaxing voices. It’s the sort that’s gentle and soothing (appropriate for a man going into nursing) and I often find myself drifting towards slumber as he reads. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t much of a problem. I slip off to dreamland and he tells me he loves me (despite the fact that I’m oblivious to his confession) and quietly hangs up the phone.
Unfortunately, such smooth transitions have not always been a hallmark of the practice. More than once (especially in the beginning), I fell asleep so stealthily that he didn’t noticed my absence. Instead of hanging up, he read on… and on… and on… only noticing my lack of attention at the end of twenty minutes and fifteen pages of labor. And more than once, I’ve forced him to reread entire chapters as penance for his act of ignorance.
As a method of self-defense, he took to making outrageous statements any time he thought that I might be sleeping. (Insults against Severus Snape are among his favorites.) If I groaned, whined, chided, or threatened him (usually with some made-up spell that left him dangling by his ankles), I was clearly still awake. If not, then it was time to stop.
Sadly, this method only works when I’m solidly in one camp or the other. There is a dreamy state which marks the territory in between waking and sleeping. And, in this delightfully blissful state, I’ve been known to resort to perfectly normal responses which may or may not be adequate indicators of my mental state. Usually, these replies cause no harm to either party and, by the clarity of my voice, he can tell whether I’m too far gone to understand the plot line. At the same time, they can produce what I affectionately refer to as “leverage” – a little something which can be held in reserve until a future date at which it might prove particularly useful.
My fiancés favorite bit of leverage was produced on an evening in which I’d taken a Benadryl before snuggling comfortably beneath my electric blanket. As the story is retold to me, a character in the book had mentioned that sapphires were really too dark to be used for an engagement ring. Noting that there were two on mine, he quite innocently asked, “Is that so?”
Since we had been reading for a while and I was really only catching every other word, I resorted to my default reply and mumbled the words, “uh huh”.
The following evening, my fiancé recounted the story to me as an explanation for his uncontrollable laughter the night before. I was mortified. After three months of research, he had picked out what, in my opinion, was the most beautiful ring on the planet. And in my drowsy state, I had maligned it.
While he promised that I was forgiven (and that the incident would not reappear as leverage), I couldn’t help wondering whether I needed a new default answer: “uh uh”. He now knows that if I’m sleepy enough, I will agree to anything. And that could open the door to unspeakable possibilities.