I woke early morning on a continent of urine spreading to the edges of my in-laws’ mattress. The piss, an acrid, whiskey-laden discharge that was unmistakably mine, had encroached upon my husband’s side of the bed, dampening the areas of his skin that touched the flood released in sleep. The soak felt fresh and not yet tepid. The sheets peeled off my back as I crab-walked out of the brass California King frame, sloped crookedly onto the floor and into the lament of the present. He was innocent to the predicament, my little love buoy, anchored and bobbing unconsciously in a puddle of my blunder, his sweet, limp face for not much longer protected from the sourness of his––our––sopping world. I crawled around the foot of the bed, got on one knee like I was proposing to him this time, shook his arm.
“Peter––Peter wake up––I wet the fucking bed. I’m so sorry.”
He snorted and rolled onto his back, making the linens squish.
“I got drunk and peed all over us, baby.”
Flipping over, he began to appreciate and fear his place of rest until he was alert and bewildered, frozen in a position like he was about to do pushups. He skittered laterally out of bed and stood beside me.
“We have to strip the sheets.”
This was the first measure of an until now dormant routine for me. I spent my childhood under the iron gargoyle of this condition, hunched in office chairs while my parents had urological dialogues with specialists. Strategies were exhausted on my problem. I secured detector pads into the crotches of my underwear, snapped awake to a small alarm clipped to the sleeve of my nightshirt, sampled a motley of nose sprays and homeopathic remedies, drank from a jug of filtered water with prescribed minerals dissolved in it, expanded my bladder capacity, eased the struggle of keeping it in. Sleepovers, sleepaway camps, any overnight visitation outside the zone of my persistently soiled den was a waking hazard racked with anxious preparation and snookered by the unforgiving oblivion of dreams.
This was a new ordeal for Peter, though, who, after he helped remove the affected bedding and pillowcases and showered, initiated a plan to clean it all without his parents, who we were visiting for the winter holiday, finding out. Their bedroom was across the house from ours, but Peter said the washing machine, even though it was located adjacent to us, was too loud and would wake his nosy southern mother.
“There’s a laundromat down the street. I’ll go with you and get everything going, then you can wait there and switch it over to the dryers while I come back here and take care of––” he held his palms upward and pointed his hands down at the yellow abomination, “––this.”
There weren’t plastic sheets on this bed like the ones I grew up with, so my secretion accessed a moderate circle––the creeping perimeter of which was darker than the center––of the mattress. I imparted my technique to Peter of richly spraying the beleaguered region with an odor eliminator and aiming a hair dryer at it.
“I’m gonna shower before we go,” I said. “I don’t want to sit there smelling like piss.”
The car stunk with the stained fabrics bunched in the backseat. We could smell it well now that we were clean. Peter drove, a cigarette drooping from his lips as he dodged a long pothole in the road.
“Don’t look at me like that. I deserve a carton for this.”
“I’m sorry, baby. Have as many as you want.”
“You told me this hadn’t happened since you were a teenager.”
“It hasn’t. I don’t know what happened. I guess I drank too much too close to bedtime.”
“Too close to bedtime!”
There was no telling the cause of the nocturnal leak. The best explanation I ever got was it was hereditary. My grandmother and uncle had it, too, a fact I remember my mother soothing me with, giving the humiliation of my youth a membership. I discovered this about my cousin as well one summer after noticing the sleeping bag he brought to camp reeked like mine, disclosing to him our lineage’s common woe. Welcome, Cameron, to the private alliance of Gibson pissers.
It was just Peter and I in the laundromat except for an old woman who didn’t look up from her folding. We split the load, shoving the duvet cover and pillowcases in one machine and the sheets and mattress pad in another.
“Text me when it’s dry and I’ll come get you.”
He left before I could thank him. I sat and watched the bulk infused with my flaw flop behind the pair of submarine-like windows––two more eyes rolling at my situation. The old woman delicately pinched the shoulder seams of a blouse and laid it on a stack of garments in her hamper. I imagined myself decades in the future as an old lady in a laundromat doing the daily washing of my pissy sheets. A calm swamped my sense of incontinence.
The drying phase stretched on due to the density of the items and my elderly role model departed. I texted Peter.
“How’s it going? Almost done here.”
“Same. I think I burned the mattress a bit.”
“No you didn’t. It’s supposed to smell like that.”
He picked me up. I held the warm pile in my lap.
“Wow, this feels really good. Very relaxing. It’s kind of making me have to pee.”
I saw him try not to smile, then give up.
Peter distracted his mother with details of the coming afternoon while I snuck in through the garage with the bundle. Rejoined in our room, I hugged him like a blanket I’d ruined and cleansed dozens of times. We turned the mattress over and remade the bed.
Big Bruiser Dope Boy tweets @bigbruiserdopeb