By Bee Lewis
Every creature sleeps during these hours of dark. Except for you, sitting at the table, the thud-thump-thud of your heart keeping rhythm with the kitchen clock. In the daylight, we go about our daily life as layers of noise assault us. Our chatter, the radio, the lawnmower, the car engine, the beeping of a hundred electronic devices. But we aren’t any happier for it, or less lonely. It punctuates our existence. It’s only here in the stillness of the night, when I watch as you count out the seconds of wakefulness that yawn into hours, that matters.
I remember a different time. A time when the sun shone every day and we wiggled along to the radio as we painted the spare room walls seaside blue in anticipation. Your arm around my shoulders, angular and heavy, squeezing me tight, knitting us together as we surveyed our work. When you pulled your fingers away, you left little circles of white on my skin. We made lists of alien things and bought furniture. You hummed as you packed my bag, squat and sturdy, setting it down in the hallway. You’d pat the bag on passing, then pat my stomach, packed with its own mystery content.
I can still feel how the coldness of the gel made my skin contract. The goosebumps. The whoosh-slush sound entombed in static like a Martian broadcast. The grainy image on the monitor. The visceral urge to push and the feeling I’d be rent in two. You held my hand, the gentlest you’ve ever been, and I wanted to you to crush the tiny bones of my fingers together just so I could think about another type of pain. And then the silence happened. Starving the oxygen from us all. A different type of pain. I knew that if I looked in your eyes, I’d see the abyss of my heart reflected back and so intuitively, we avoided looking at each other.
The cards and flowers started to arrive but they weren’t the patchwork elephants, or teddy bears, or alphabet blocks we’d anticipated. Visitors left their best conversations at home, or in the pub, or at the office. Instead, they brought us careful words, casseroles, sympathetic looks and endless pauses. Each one certain, that a misplaced word could somehow deepen our grief. And in the tiny churchyard, as the willows wept, you sang a lullaby – your voice clear and deep. It took all my strength not to curl my body round that perfect little box and sleep as you sang.
And now, we go to bed each evening and we listen to each other breathing. I hear you get back up again, shuffling your feet into your slippers and pulling your dressing-gown off the door hook. And I can’t say any of these things to you, but I long for you to sing me to sleep.