My mother told me the story of the princess and the pea once, by way of explaining a joke she had made. It didn’t make the joke better, but it would elucidate things for me. I think of it sometimes now, finding myself with a wry grin and an inward groan, shaping different pleasures from my mother’s failure to make me laugh. The story unravels in my head and I reknit the words to fit the women I meet, draping it over them while they sleep. It warms them till they wake, dropping like a veil as they rise.