Stay in Bed
For the month of November I'm posting short pieces of fiction writing every day. To learn more about this project, click here. November 6th:
I had left the curtains open again. My eyes were still closed, but I could feel the warmth of light on my face. I rolled towards the window, towards the light, towards his side of the bed. It was empty. It was always empty now.
People kept repeating the same trite anthem to me: time heals, time heals, time heals. I didn't buy it. Time changes, maybe. But, heals? No. It has been two years already and I still started every morning rolling towards him, only to find him gone. I still started every morning with emptiness.
The light was growing brighter, but it felt dim. I opened my eyes and saw the clouds out the window. I curled my body in a ball and pulled the white comforter up to my chin. Comforter; it's a pertinent name for a blanket. These things, which we wrap around us and cover ourselves with to keep warm, to stay protected, they do lend their own sort of comfort to the skin. Perhaps it could comfort my heart as it warmed my body?
I didn’t bother closing my eyes anymore. It was early, but I knew sleep wouldn’t come for me again. I stayed perfectly still and stared at the wall. Not at the window, not at the cloudy grey sky, or the way the color changed on the clouds as the sun rose. I had seen that before. Not today. Today wasn’t for beauty. Today I just wanted the quiet calm stillness of the white wall. Empty and blank.
But even the wall changed. It displayed it’s own subtle shifts in color as the light fell on it. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want change. If time meant change, than maybe eventually time would mean healing, and all of those trite, worn, insipid people would be right. I didn’t want them to be right. I didn’t want healing.
I wanted to remember. I wanted to hold him close. Hold it all close. All of those days, those beautiful sweet moments. I could hear his teasing laugh now, railing on me for my melancholy. I squirmed thinking of the way he would tickle me out of my morose moods, until I squealed and joined his laughter. But, the room was quiet. I pulled as much of the comforter as I could grab hold of into a ball at my chest, it was weak comfort.
I opened my eyes. Maybe I could dissolve into the light? Maybe I could sink into the feathered fluff of the comforter and never rise? The alarm clock answered. Sharp and clear. Beep. Beep. Beep.
I rolled only my stomach and slowly pulled a pillow over my head. I still heard it. Beep. Beep. Beep. I could have reached out and turned it off. I could have snoozed it. Both those options felt like too much work. Right now I just wanted to lay here. I always just wanted to lay here, on his side of the bed.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. I heard the flip of the light switch in the other room. My son was up. He was only ten but he sounded like a grown man, the way his feet hit heavy on the wood floor boards.
I pushed the pillow off my head, rolled on my back, and stared at the ceiling. The morning always came too early. Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Mom, are you gonna turn that off?" He pushed the door open a little and peeked his head in the room. His hair stuck up in every direction, and I wondered if he tossed and turned as much as I did in the night.
"Sure," I forced a smile and reached my hand towards the alarm.
He closed the door and I could hear his pounding feet as they receded down the hall.
The room was too quiet now. The beep of the alarm had drowned out my thoughts. Now they were loud. I rolled on one side, my body relaxed, not from rest, but from a feeling of numbness. I knew I had to get up, knew my son was getting ready for the day and I should too, but I didn’t really care. It all felt so meaningless. So pointless. So like a carnival ride that spins round and round never getting anywhere. The light didn’t lie. It came and went, came and went, we were spinning too. Spinning webs that could so quickly be broken and blown away. I grabbed my pillow and hugged it to my chest. Taking deep, slow, intentional breathes I filled my lungs with air and squeezed the pillow tighter.
"Mom," I heard my son's voice before he opened the door, "I didn't think you'd be up.” There wasn’t judgement in his voice, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty. Wasn’t I suppose to be the one dragging him out of bed at this age? Especially now?
“I have to get to school. Can we leave in ten minutes?” he raised his eye brows and asked the same question another way, “Can you get ready that fast?”
“Sure,” I pushed the covers back, sat up, and grabbed a sweatshirt from the floor. My feet hit the cold wood floor as I pulled the chilled material of the sweatshirt over my head. Cold. Everything felt cold. Then I looked at my son, he was warm. Fresh and living and spinning forward at a breakneck speed. I smiled at him, a genuine smile now. Walking over to the doorway where he stood I gave him a hug. His shoulders came up to my chest and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he had outgrown me. He already didn’t want me hugging him in front of people. Here it was safe. Here, he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed me back with the same intensity he had used as a rambunctious preschooler.
“I’m ready,” I said. “Just let me brush my teeth.”
But, neither one of us moved. We just stood there, hugging in the door way. Holding each other in the cool light of morning.