Sometime in the lost black middle of the night Gwyn peeps and I stagger from my own bed into hers. The covers have slid down to her feet. I extract the stuffed menagerie and tuck us both in—I wrap us in this warmth that keeps the frosty night at bay. Gwyn’s body is a breathing comma. She returns to dark sleep.

For the minute or two of consciousness before I join her there, the soft rise and fall of her back presses up against me. She’s all heat. During the day she flings her energy about by jumping and talking and making dozens of paper dolls, but at night that energy silently radiates. I soak in her heat. It expands into the cave of our covers. In this vast frozen night, in this world of biting deadly cold, Gwyn’s heat is God’s heat. Or God’s heat is what we generate together, a refuge of silent, pulsing life.

If I turn in my sleep, Gwyn’s sleeping body extends a toe or hand to find me. We’re in our private dreams and yet some channel is open, for heat or dreams or love or God… In the morning I always rise first, leaving Gwyn to sleep another hour or two, so our middle-of-the-night snuggling remains subterranean, as though we’ve met each other on another, darker plane and somehow been changed for it. Gwyn knows. We’ve shared heat and this matters, although I can’t quite say why.

Although perhaps we’re exchanging what we knew before our births, or anticipating what we’ll know after death. Perhaps this erasure and completion, this obliteration and union, is more God than anything we know in our bright waking. Shared sleep changes us. It teaches our bodies what they can never learn otherwise, that we can be together in that warm dissolution. Every night I stagger through the cold house into Gwyn’s bed because I can—because I have this gift of heaven I can share no other way.

–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

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