‘Hungover in a mattress shop, I realised he was unlike any man I’d ever met’

For many people, bed shopping is a forgettable experience. For Shona Hendley, it was the start of something more

I was 22 years old, making the 600km drive from Melbourne to Canberra where a new job – my first proper job – awaited. My golden Daewoo Matiz, AKA Kel’s car from Kath and Kim, was packed with as many personal belongings as would fit in its tiny interior. My body buzzed with nervous excitement.

I made a pit stop in Goulburn, where I stretched my legs at the Big Merino. My phone rang; it was Matt, my soon-to-be colleague and, unconventionally, my soon-to-be housemate. He was finalising our house-moving arrangements.

Matt and I had never met in person. As we were both relocating to Canberra, our new boss had put us in touch and suggested we try renting a house together, along with another housemate.

There was something about my phone calls with Matt I looked forward to. Our chats were mainly focused on the rental process, though whenever I cracked a joke I was unsure whether his laughter was a good omen of our pending housemateship or if he was just being polite. I’d sent him copies of my passport and driver’s licence for rental applications, and although they featured photos of me looking like a serial killer, on the phone I tried my best not to sound like one.

I was due to meet Matt that night at a party. When he eventually arrived, extremely late, he said a brief “hi” then ignored me for the rest of the night.

As I was getting ready to leave the party, I went to him to say goodbye. Perhaps out of guilt for having said no more than two words to me all night, or perhaps due to the inhibition-lowering effects of alcohol, he offered to accompany me to the taxi rank.

As we waited in line, he suggested we go furniture shopping the next day. A bed and set of drawers wouldn’t fit into my miniature car, so I accepted. The next morning we carpooled to Fyshwick, Canberra’s light industrial heartland and home to furniture clearance warehouses.

We were suitably hungover from the previous night, but sitting in his Holden Commodore SS we chatted as if we’d known each other for years. Sisqó’s album Unleash the Dragon was on the stereo – we discovered we had a mutual appreciation for his full discography and not just the Thong Song. Matt was reclining in his driver’s seat with a cigarette in hand and a black baseball cap on his head. There was something about his wannabe-R&B-musician-skater-dude-rev-head look that made me smile.

Shona Hendley with her partner Matt.
On their second meeting, Shona Hendley and Matt bonded over a mutual appreciation of the music of Sisqó Photograph: Shona Hendley

We arrived at our first stop. It was there in the hot, non-air-conditioned warehouse, eyeing the collection of discount-price mattresses, that I realised Matt was unlike any man I’d ever met.

He also noticed the shift. “Well, this could look a bit dodgy from the outside,” he said with an awkward smile. “Me, taking the new employee out mattress and bed shopping.”

I told him I’d already thought that too, and it was a bit dodgy. “But I really need something to sleep on.”

And we both sat down, tired and hungover, on our chosen queen mattress – the very same bed we’d ultimately share in the years to come. For many people, mattress shopping is a forgettable experience. But for us it was the start of something more.

  • Shona Hendley is a lifestyle writer from regional Victoria where she lives with her three goats, two cats, two kids and husband

Shona Hendley

The GuardianTramp

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