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“Strange Bedfellows,” our theme for this issue, is a Shakespearean phrase from The Tempest. A man named Trinculo seeks shelter from an approaching storm and finds only a cloak under which the half-human island creature Caliban is hiding. “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” Trinculo admits before crawling in beside him.

Though the original context wasn’t romantic, I can’t help but think of past relationships when I hear the phrase. And I don’t mean that the people I dated were strange. Rather, there is an inherent strangeness that can accompany even our closest relationships. I’ve come to know both the comfort and curious intimacy of sharing a bed with someone—struggling to fall asleep the first time I listened to a boyfriend’s steady breath beside me, the way my husband’s hand drifts as if sleepwalking toward my chest, how our dreams are always and only our own.

Beyond the bed and romantic relationships, peculiarities are part of my other relationships in the world. So many people are, in a way, “strange lifefellows” to me. My childhood friend who also came out as gay (though we never discussed it as teenagers playing Mario Kart). The therapist who, years later, I see at a party, nodding a private acknowledgment as I leave. My neighbor sitting outside his house to smoke in the winter air. Our lives intersect and interweave in unique ways. 

Relationships are a common theme among the pieces featured in this issue of Halfway Down the Stairs. Lovers and exes, the artifacts of a shared life that remain after a breakup. Childhood friendships and strained connections with parents. Impacts of illness and death, the lingering memories. Additionally, juxtapositions between characters and setting or between images and timing create another form of “strange bedfellows.”

Please enjoy all the excellent writing in this issue. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work. But a particularly special thanks go out to Milena Nigam, nonfiction editor extraordinaire, who is closing off her time at HDtS with the publication of this issue. Milena has served on the HDtS team for almost eight years. Like all of our editors, her work is unpaid, but it’s not unappreciated. Thank you, Milena, for your contributions, and we wish you everything good for the future.

For any interested nonfiction writers/editors out there, we have some vacancies—get in touch!

The theme for our next issue is “Resistance,” and we will be open for submissions until May 1, 2023. We look forward to reading what you will send us!

Phillip Watts Brown is a poetry editor at Halfway Down the Stairs.

© 2023, Phillip Watts Brown

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