International Writers Magazine: Expected
Late on this night
in January is more from the lack of sunlight than the actual time, although
the time is relevant. It always is. The evening news mentions freezing
temperatures and black ice. As if it would be that simple.
Days Are Like This
Plaguing my mind
more often than not these long evenings are those five simple words.
The phone is silent and the remains of my own dinner sit haphazardly
in the sink. His dinner is plated and wrapped in the fridge. I dont
know why I keep doing this, he never eats it. From the couch I can
see out the picture window to the long winding driveway, but the
street is bathed in darkness, it is late.
I settle into a more comfortable position, my ungainly pregnant belly
making it nearly impossible to find a sweet spot and relax. The dog looks
resentfully from my round middle to my eyes, in the meaningful way only
a dog and a lover can do. Tonight the pain in my back is lower and more
persistent. I try to rest my head back but bright spots flare in my vision
as soon as I do. Ive been like this for at least a month and I still
have another month to go. I cant even lay flat on my back anymore
without getting nauseous.
I sit with pillows under my side and between my knees to ease my discomfort
trying to imagine what my life would be like with a real husband. You
know the kind who comes home after work, undoes his tie, kisses your forehead
and says "what smells so great?" Maybe he eats dinner with me,
compliments my cooking, clears the table and fluffs a pillow so I can
take a load off my swollen feet. The thought of him actually taking my
foot into his lap to rub away the dull ache makes me flush and feel adulterous.
My eyes refocus as a special report flashes across the television about
deadly ice and plunging temperatures. I try his work number for the 10th
time. I dont even know why I bother, he wont answer it. I
close my eyes and take a deep breath, my right hand has gone numb and
tingly, carpal tunnel; I ate too much salt today. I shift my legs and
the dog moans at me in protest; she is comfortable on my feet.
Visions of the real husband slip through my mind, us working side by side
as we put together cribs and fuss over which side of the room we should
put them. He is good natured and handy with something as puzzling as cribs
and infant swings. He turns down silly names I toss at him while he helps
fold the weeks laundry and suggests even sillier ones. I feel the
babies move and he drops everything to lay his warm, strong hand across
my fluttery belly and holds his breath.
The phone rings and I am jarred from my fantasy and embarrassed as if
I were caught smoking behind the tennis courts in high school. Its
only my mother, calling to make sure I am in for the night and not on
icy roads. She doesnt even ask about him. She knows I am alone and
that I was hoping that her call would be his. She asks me how I am feeling,
doesnt really hear my answer (its Monday night football) and
tells me to take it easy. I hang up the phone, keeping the receiver close
just in case. The fact that I do this makes me feel like a fraud. I know
the routine here, this is nothing new, yet I still keep the phone close.
Just in case.
The show Im watching ends and I realize its after ten oclock.
I wander around, heave another 40 pound bag of pellets into the stove
and head up to bed. My doctor says not to lift anything over 10 pounds
at this point, he must be lecturing someone who has a real husband. I
leave a light on for him so he will be able to get his key in the lock,
he has terrible vision and I know how he would struggle with this in the
dark. I climb into our bed, body pillows bundled close, the dog as close
as she can get without me fussing at her. As I arrange myself around the
bolsters it occurs to me they have been in place, between us, far longer
than Ive actually needed them. A barrier of cotton and polyester
that is as old as the Wall of China.
I turn on the TV across from the bed to at least have David Letterman
tonight. He is familiar and is always on when he is supposed to be. I
close my eyes as he and Paul banter about something so far removed from
my current situation and drift along the sugar coated sweet path of the
real husbands existence. His arms are wrapped around my shoulders;
it is the least wide place these days. His breathing is even and soothing
and I edge into the space where his furry belly meets his thighs when
he is spooned behind me. Unconsciously he nestles his face into my neck
and breaths my skin and body, in and out like the waves on a calm shore.
I move my body, mostly my back into him and I know he will respond, even
in sleep. He inhales deeply and shushes me quietly at the same time as
turning me over into his arms, bringing his broad shoulders up above me
to kiss my forehead gently. I move awkwardly underneath him and he holds
my face with one hand while he turns my heavy body with the other, just
so. He knows what I want and how to make it work for me, with no words
The dog barks. I am hot, the sheet is at my feet and my body aches in
certain places. I hear the door slam, I see the clock, it is 3 in the
morning. I steady my breathing; I am startled and feel as if I have violated
some covenant that I never signed. He walks so heavy, never taking off
his shoes and turning on every light in his wake. He coughs loudly; it
is his way of telling me he is home. I pull the sheet up suddenly cold.
I gather my pillows close and make my breathing regular as I hear him
come up the stairs. I prepare myself for his touch, a quick embrace; acknowledgement
for his lack of excuses. He sidles into bed, his body as cold and far
from my own side of the bed as humanly possible, inviting the dog to get
between us. He falls asleep quickly. I am still awake, breathing and berating
myself for the wanting.
There was no black ice tonight on the road from there to here. If I believed
in God maybe there would have been a deadly patch, but certainly I would
then be headed to Hell. It truly seems no worse than this reality and
I am skeptical enough to think that purgatory would be along the same
lines. Resigned to know, I asked for this; I settle in for a sleepless
night wondering where the real husband is.
© Juliana Perry November 2007
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