The imaginary line


Bunk bed kit does not include alligator pit.

My sister and I had bunk beds part of the time when we were growing up. Since my sister is older, she had first dibs on the upper bunk, but I know I slept up there at least once because I remember falling out of bed. My parents came into the room and my father picked me up to check for broken bones. I even remember dreaming that I was falling into an alligator pit.


My fear of alligators stemmed, I’m sure, from the fact that there was an alligator park in our downtown. City planners could have built a botanical garden, an amusement park, or a duck pond. Instead they built a pond full of alligators.


“Kids, get in the car and let’s go see Oscar and Sally, the alligators with the big, shiny teeth. Did you know that they can chase you down if you fall in and try to run away?”


Maybe you’re living in Florida where people have these as pets, or in Louisiana where people hit them over their heads for their shoes and then eat them. The alligators, not the shoes. But I’m talking El Paso, Texas out in the middle of the desert. And all that separated little you from big them was a short “protective” fence.


But back to sleeping arrangements.


My sister and I also shared a double bed at one point. Since my parents couldn’t find a bed with a built-in wall down the middle, my sister drew an imaginary line to keep me from entering her territory.


Honoring the line was easy in daylight, but not at night. I was petrified of the dark. After alligators, my biggest fear was that my sister would turn into a witch. Perhaps because I had bonked myself silly, I believed that if I touched her, she would remain my sister, and I would save her from witchiness. So, I would dutifully remain on my side, waiting for her to fall asleep and then would slowly slide my hand or foot across the no-fly zone to touch her. And, of course, she would always be awake and yell, “Mom, she’s touching me!”


The sliding, the touching, and yelling would happen several times each night until one or the other of us fell asleep. It was exhausting.


In private, when my sister and I share these memories, I always say, “See what happened. You should have let me touch you.”


But I never say that in public.


(The picture is from:

and you can build one yourself.)