One of Those Nights
It is one of those nights when you are lying in bed and all you want is to be out of your own body, all you want is to be anywhere other than inside the arms that extend like twigs from your torso. You do not want to be inside of those, nor do you want to be inside of the legs that lie there lifelessly, lifeless and useless, and you do not know which is worse, having no life or having no use.
Right now your legs have both, no life and no use, and you would rather not have either of them, those legs. They are kind of thick in the middle, and too thin around the ankles, but still, your legs are your legs and you cannot escape them.
Also, you cannot escape: ears, elbows. Lips that chap and chip off like dried flower petals. Lines creasing your face like freshly unfolded origami. Oxygen, and your addiction. Sleep, and your aversion.
/ / /
Apparently you and sleep are averse to one another because your eyes do not want to close, or even if they do close – accidentally or intentionally – you do not have a pleasant experience, keeping them closed.
For starters, you do not have a pleasant experience because the experience involves not seeing nothing, but rather, seeing everything.
/ / / /
You see the big-headed baby with inordinate ears strapped to the back of the athletic woman you stood beside on the bus that morning, and spots leftover from the sun you should not have stared at for hours during your lunch break. You see the squinty eyes you got from your husband after work, the squinty eyes which only lasted a split-second and looked almost like an apology and an excuse and a sort of smile all at the same time, but a conciliatory sort of smile, a sort of “I have pity for you but want you to think it’s respect” sort of smile. A sort of “I don’t know how I feel about you but I’m supposed to feel something and it’s supposed to be good” sort of smile. You see your husband’s whole body, which, for the first night since your marriage, is not in bed next to your whole body.
That’s what you see.
You also see ice cream, in various stages of softness. Spumoni. You see pale green pistachio and rose pink, shifting from solid in the freezer to a little less solid on the counter, then liquid-melt in the bowl between your hands. You see your hands, sitting uncomfortably in your husband’s hands, when he grabbed them, cold, after you ate ice cream and while he watched TV and tried to make your hands fit into his, and in a way, they did, but they didn’t. His fingers felt like sandpaper, and he scratched them all over yours, and you shivered, cold.
/ / / / /
You shivered like there were very few degrees in your house because there were very few degrees in your house, and now, there still are very few.
And now with very few degrees in your bed, you stiffen, solid. You do not want to move.
You do not want to move, and you never want to move from the neighborhood which sits wonderfully close to your job, your favorite park, your favorite coffee shop, your favorite neighbor who is good for sharing cookies and loaning cups of sugar. You told your husband, no, you do not want to move from this neighbor, nor from the neighborhood, nor from the city that has been your home for as long as you and your husband have been you and your husband. You do not want your husband to want to move, although he does, although he said it was time to “try something new.”
There is no such thing as “try,” you said, and also, you asked, what is so great about “new”?
“New” is not spumoni, because spumoni is what you always buy, and with good reason, and with good reason you ate the entire gallon after his comment, when he asked why you had to buy the same kind of ice cream you always buy, and you said “because it’s good,” and he raised his eyebrows as if to question your fundamental, intuitive understanding of good, although you know, and have always known, what is good, and now, still knowing, you lie in your bed in your thick legs and think about how you ate all the ice cream, how you ate it all, and for that reason, you hate it. The ice cream. You hate it for melting in your bowl, making it so easy for you to slurp it in an attempt to shut up your husband, hoping it might slake your thirst like water, might sate your hunger too, and any amount of sadness that might be left from the day, or brand-new sadness because of the day. You hoped.
But the hope did not help out and overall eating all the ice cream was not a success, because it did not shut up your husband, and there is still some sadness.
/ / / / / /
There is still some sadness, and it fills you in a way that ice cream cannot, and, more than anything, you feel full.
/ / / / / / /
The fullness spills out of your eyes in the form of tears. You are crying. The bed cries, too, cries and creaks like babies crying, and maybe it always has cried like this, maybe it always has made this awful baby-sound, but you have never heard it because your husband and his snores were there, but now they are not.
Neither your husband nor his snores are in your bed. It is only you.
Although it is only you, you are aware that the bed is too small, and the mattress. The mattress is thin, and you have eaten a whole gallon of ice cream, so you are stuck.
You could, you realize, unstick yourself, and go after your husband, you realize, with a simple motion of the legs: right followed by left, swing up and off the side. But you look at your lifeless useless legs and remember that they are lifeless and useless, unstirred and unsettled at the same time, unstirred and unsettled.
/ / / / / / / / /
You are unstirred and unsettled, and wonder when you, in the likeness of your husband, will change, if you can change.
What does it take to change? Does it take allowing, or forcing? Maybe it takes some of both. Maybe just enough of both.
Do you have enough of both? After all, you have been staring at the night-dark walls of the night-dark room, and there seems to be a bit of change there because it is getting brighter, and maybe, you think, you are beginning to see not what has already happened, and what will happen, but rather, you are beginning to see what is here now. You think maybe, you are beginning to see what you should see, and you think maybe you are able to sleep through what you shouldn’t, you think, maybe you are able to sleep. Maybe your eyes are closing, and keeping closed, and maybe the day thoughts are dark enough to blot out.
You think you sleep and you are almost asleep, but sleep is stolen by the sudden alarm sound that tells you it is just after nine. You see there is light is from the sun.
You sigh. You are sleepy, but it is morning.
It is one of those mornings.
Rebecca Hannigan studied fiction at Sewanee, the University of the South, where she received the Bain Swigett Prize for Poetry and attended the Writers' Conference in 2016. She is now a junior editor for Tethered by Letters and lives in Denver, CO. You can learn more by following @rhannigan8 and visiting https://rebeccahannigan.wixsite.com/writing.