|Morning, Evening, and Night
He gets out of bed with a grunt and goes from the bedroom to the bathroom. If he acknowledges me at all the gesture is silent, because I neither hear nor feel anything. Iíve been awake for hours, lying on my side just on the edge of the mattress and staring blankly at the undecorated wall. For a long timeóalmost three years nowóthis has been my morning.
I used to be a writer. I used to dream wonderful things and wake up with ideas teeming, playing like tiny movies just behind my eyelids. I used to wait eagerly for the sun to show itself, because that meant I could get up and start putting everything into words. But I donít anymore. I justÖ donít have the energy.
How can I leave him if I canít bring myself to get out of bed?
The front door creaks open and closes with a bang, and the force of the sound pushes me that final inch. I roll out of bed and sway across the cold floor to the bathroom. For a moment I consider taking a long, warm shower, but the thought of the heavy steam makes me feel tired again. My teeth feel clean enough, so thereís really no point in brushing them, and my hair isnít that tangled. The toilet seat is up and the porcelain rim is splattered with droplets of urine. I stand in the doorway of the bathroom for a moment, then turn away to find some clean socks.
When I enter the kitchen, I see dirty dishes from last nightóand the night before, and the night before that, and the night before thatóstill piled up in the sink. I automatically turn the hot water on and drop a soap tablet in as I pass. Thereís half a stale bagel with cream cheese spread unevenly over it sitting in the fridge; I pick it up and bite into it absently. Iím never very hungry anymore and I donít really like bagels, but itís still edible and if I donít eat it itíll just go stale. Meanwhile, the sink fills. The soapy water sloshes over a bit onto the counter before I can get to turning it off, so I eat my breakfast with one hand and grab a sponge to wipe the counter with the other. The sponge comes up crustier; I guess itís been a while since the counterís been cleaned. I sigh, swallow the last bite of bagel, and turn back to the dishes.
I remember one time I was washing dishes and forgot to take off my wedding ring. The soap made it slippery, and it slid right off my finger and down the drain. He didnít notice. The next day I reached down to see if it was still there. It was; it had gotten caught in the gears of the disposal. By the time I pulled my arm back out there were gashes in my skin and I was bleeding. There must have been something sharp down there, but I never felt it happen. I walked to the hospital and came home with a white bandage wrapped around my arm. He still didnít care, but at least I got the ring back.
Sometime later, I find all of the dishes clean and dry in a pile next to me. In my hand I have the last one, a towel gliding over its chipped surface in endless circles. With a great effort I stop the movement of my hand and the circles end. Whatís one plate next to all these others? My grip slackens, just a bit. I catch myself in time and start to put it on top of the pile. Then I look over at the calendar and my fingers really do slip. The plate crashes to the floor and shatters by my feet, some of the pieces bouncing and landing on my socks. Today is Friday, and Iíve almost missed it. Itís already almost ten in the morning.
I leave the broken plate where it fell and go back to the bedroom. Thereís water all down the front of my nightshirt, so I change into a white blouse that only has a few stains on it. Itís colder than it looks outside and all of my winter clothes are too big now, so I get the sweats Iíve been wearing for the past week out of the hamper again. An old clip shaped like a dragonfly glints and catches my eye from the nightstand, so I pick it up and pin it pointlessly in my hair. I grab my purse and walk out the front door, trying to hurry because Iím almost late.
A group of old friends is leaving town for good today. I knew the three of them and their boyfriends back in high school, before they got together. I havenít talked to any of them since graduation, but I heard they were going a few days ago while I was in line to pay for the groceries; one of their parents was talking behind me in the checkout line. As I near the house that one of them lives in I see them in the driveway packing suitcases into a car. They look around and wave hesitantly as I get closer.
ďHello.Ē I cough into my hand, trying to get rid of the hoarse, unused scratch in my voice. Or maybe thatís just what my voice is now. ďIsÖ is there any more room? Can I come with you guys?Ē
They exchange surprised, anxious looks. ďSorry,Ē one of them says, tugging on a strand of her hair, ďbut weíre really out of trunk space. I donít know where weíd put your luggage.Ē
ďI donít have anyóĒ because I almost missed it. Butó ďI donít need any.Ē
Again they glance uneasily at each other. ďThereís no room,Ē one of the boyfriends finally tells me bluntly. ďThere are only six seats, and theyíre all taken.Ē
Whatever is left to sayóthe goodbyes, the good-lucks, the have-a-nice-tripsóis drowned out by the murmur of token apologies. I pretend that itís all right, waving silently as the car pulls out of the driveway and disappears. A song comes to mind, but I donít remember enough of the words for it to make sense. My purse feels heavy in my hand, but I canít let go of the handle. I wander aimlessly down the sidewalk with it and after an hour find myself back outside my house. Itís not the same house it was three years before; the paint is peeling, the windows are dirty, and the cement around it is cracked. Everything is gray, gray, gray, and Iím so pale that I blend right in.
I used to think it mattered, back when I married him fresh out of high school. And I left my friends behind for him, back when I thought I was in love. I wonder if anyone even knows what that word means. I thought it was love when I stayed alone all day in a white house with blue trim, when my husband would come home and kiss me. I still thought it was love even when I remembered to smell the sauce as it heated past the danger point and began to smoke. I still got lost in dreamlike romance novels during the day, at first with a knowing feeling and slowly a more wistful one. But thatís all it was, all it is: a dream. Even the haze seeping out of the oven is more substantial than what people think of as love. When I sat in front of the computer with my fingers ready or curled up in a corner with a pencil and paper and felt nothing but lost, I began to understand that. Slowly the colors weathered away or ran together in the rain or left for someplace better than hereóthey faded until the house was the color it is now. By the time all I got was a peck on the cheek or foreheadÖ By then I think I knew: I am not happy here, but Iím a failure at escaping. Thatís all right, though, because I donít really have anywhere to go.
A violent wind rips briefly past and I shudder; wherever the perfect climate is, it canít be here. It used to be here, but itís moved on now, just like everyone else. Everyone but him and me. And thereís nowhere else to go, so I go inside. I drop my purse on the floor somewhere and kick my shoes off into a wall. The broken plate is still on the kitchen floor, and I get the dustpan, scoop it up, and dump it in the trash. Then I wander aimlessly back into the bedroom, spent for the day. This is my morning, evening, and night: staring at the wall until he comes back home and bores me to sleep with his heavy, pointless breathing.