So To Bed

Entry by: jaguar

28th November 2016
I wake and listen for whatever disturbed me. It is 3.20am, the line of window above the drooping curtains shows no glimpse of dawn, dark as a cave, ungiving. Was it a bad dream? My mind is curiously empty as if nothing has been decided, no choices made. It feels as if I could go back to any point of my past and start again, live differently.

I listen carefully, heart racing, but there is no sound, not even the house sighing or the floorboards yawning at the tedium of our everyday existence. No one else is awake, clutching at the anonymity of darkness. Whatever I do with this moment will go unwitnessed. I am both relieved and sorry there is no one close enough to care.

When we were first married Clive worked shifts. I used to go to bed alone at eleven knowing he would be there when I woke. Most nights I woke too, around 3am, as he crept into our bed, external cold, outside alert entering the soft warmth of my dreaming. I used to complain about the disturbed nights but, secretly, I loved it. His strong arms reclaiming me. Just the two of us in an quietened world, my joy in him being there, the intimacy of it.

Marriage is the ultimatum game of Snap. You find someone you think matches your hopes and needs, claim you are made of the same essence, badge yourself with his name. Then you spend years spotting the similarities, resenting his occasional strangeness. Is that how I became this lizard-skinned, emotionally dried-out hardcase? When did the resentment overcome the joy? I didn’t even wake or notice that night when Clive finally didn’t come to bed.

I land back in reality, slotted into the relentless passing of time. It was only last week that happened, a few days ago I woke to find Clive hadn’t come upstairs. The events of my life clunk down on each other like bricks trapping me in this room, this moment. Yet it isn’t the events themselves but what I made of them, how I twisted myself to fit them in. Everything could be perceived differently if I could only go back and become that girl who looked forward to being woken at 3am.

I get up, ease myself into my dressing gown, shuffle into slippers. I glance in the dressing table mirrors. Three images of me stare back wild-eyed. I choose the one on the left who looks younger in the deeper darkness, less concretely formed. I brush her hair, rub a smear of leftover night-cream into her skin. I fit myself in to her the way I did my dressing gown and go downstairs.

Clive lies awake on the makeshift bed in the lounge. I see him lift his eyes to me. I sense the imperceptible wince as he prepares himself for my complaint. Somehow I know he’s been trying to make sense of what his illness will mean for us. I know he’s been trying to minimize its impact on me at his own expense.

‘Hey,’ I say kicking off my slippers, dropping my dressing gown and lifting the corner of the quilt to awkwardly ease my bottom on to the too narrow sofa bed. It makes me feel ridiculous and a giggle escapes me as shocking as a gunshot in the desert our relationship has become. ‘I missed you.’

He sucks air in and then laughs at my use of his old, middle of the night greeting. Laughing is a language we haven’t used in the longest time. It's better, less guarded than waspish, precise diving words. Gestures that have evolved into warnings. He shifts painfully to accommodate me, lifts his arm in welcome. ‘And so to bed.’

I twist into our old sleeping position, equal parts familiar and strange. I wrap my arms around him, arms that now feel as flexible and strong as his were hesitant and hurting.