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Peter McKay


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Sleeping With the Enemy


The other night, my wife and I were out to dinner at a nice restaurant when she turned, stared at me solemnly and reached over to put her hand over mine.

"You should know, you make an 'chck!' sound when you sleep," she said. (Editorial note: She didn't say "chck!" exactly. Instead, she made a short choking noise, almost like she had a hairball caught in her throat, but very easily coughed it up. It was short but gross.)

"Excuse me?" I said. I had been expecting something like "My turkey divan is delicious!" or maybe "Can you pass the salt?"

"It's a disgusting 'chck!' sound every time you breathe," she said. "It keeps me up at night, and you need to do something about it."

I sighed. One of the best things about being married is that you don't ever have to sleep alone. One of the worst things about being married is that you can never sleep alone. My wife and I have had a running battle (lasting 29 years now) over who is more annoying to sleep with.

For my part, I understand that I might snore once in a while. I know this only because my wife occasionally rolls over and smacks me in the back of my head. In fact, she has been trying to get scientific proof of my snoring for some time.

Last month, she got out her cellphone at three in the morning and tried to use the camera to record me. Luckily for me, she has never learned how to use the camera on her phone and instead filmed her own face and breathing. Every once in a while, I get falsely accused. One night, I was lying on my side, wide awake, and she rolled over, punched me in the arm, and told me to stop snoring. By the time I rolled over to tell her off, she was out like a light.

My wife, on the other hand, has a tendency to kick in the night.

Not big kicks — the kind you'd use to send a football over a goalpost, for instance — but little twitchy kicks, such as the ones you'd use if you wanted to wake someone up who had just a minute before been fast asleep. Last month, I went to change the sheets and found that she had worn out the spot where her feet go. There were two distinct bare spots in the sheets, one for each foot. On my side? Nothing! I was so excited I had proof, I ran down two flights of stairs to drag her up to show her.

In the restaurant, I tried to be diplomatic. I couldn't exactly do something about something that happened when I breathed. Breathing when you sleep is kind of a mandatory thing if you want to wake up in the morning. A "chck!" sound, I said, didn't seem so bad, especially because I did it on every breath. It could almost be soothing if you chose to make the best of it ... kind of like a metronome.

My wife gave me a look that told me there's a fine line between diplomacy and stupidity, so I gave up. Neither of us could be held responsible for what happens during REM stage, and it was nothing personal.

So we decided that sleeping with the enemy was probably not a good idea, and it was time to call a truce. The next day we went out and bought one of those big, long pillows — the kind you put across the head of your bed to make your bedroom look pretentious. When we were ready to go to sleep, we could put it between us down the middle of the bed, like a buffer zone. If she found herself unconsciously kicking something, it would be the pillow. And if I ended up making the "chck!" noise in my sleep, she could put it over my face, but just long enough to get my attention.

So if you read in your paper any time soon that a local columnist was found cold and unresponsive in his bed and his distraught wife was too distraught to take any questions from the press, you'll know what happened.

Diplomacy, as they say, is dead.

To find out more about Peter McKay, please visit



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