to sleep

28 05 2009

she never would follow him to bed.  it didn’t take her long to learn his routines, like a dog circling itself before settling, so that she could adjust her late evening and be sure to slip into the covers opposite him concurrently.  so slyly did she do so that he never once noticed the apparent coincidence.  or, if he ever did notice that he decided by his lead their bed time, he never did mention it.

this was a man who’d followed her, as nonchalantly as one can do such a thing, to three different cities of residence, and without a great deal of encouragement or even welcome.  this was how it started, and once it was started, she’d had the magnanimity to extend him the courtesy of constitutional balance—-at least when it came to the close of day.  something there was about the last light of the waking day that stirred in her the need to share it with her consort in life.  there was a question of fairness:  if they had agreed to face the world together, then one should not retire before the other.  one should not leave the other without.

even when they were apart, she would bed with him.  he was a man of medium habit, and while she couldn’t pinpoint his moment of nightly departure, she could guess roundly enough the time that he might be nearly unwound.  she would darken the house save her bedside lamp and phone him, and if he wasn’t quite ready for slumber yet, no matter, she could talk him until he had not time enough for other proceedings at the close of their conversation, and they would thusly abed together.  although he made no mention of recognizing it, he had to have noticed that her voice had become the pavlovian bell to which his internal light began dimming.

if there ever was a woman who’d so completely, and without malice, learned to manipulate her beloved’s daily rhythms, it was she.  she, quietly and calmly, watchfully and patiently, busily and happily, would await his clockwork tells.  leaving a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of his glass for too long a time; closing one of his eyes halfway while reading, holding the book just a little too close to his face, and flipping several pages ahead to find a good place to stop; pausing in his shifting in his seat for too long a time; keeping his eyes closed just an instant longer than necessary during blinks; or the idle rotation and satisfying cracking of his ankle bones.

it’s likely that when she sprang into overtly languid action at one of this signals, her own stirrings echoed his own nascent inclinations toward sleep, and, his body thusly reassured, he’d begin his own rituals of daily closure.  she washed her face; he sought a final refill of water.  she brushed her teeth; he marched the house like a soldier, cutting power to lights and anything else that would needlessly waste electricity in the night.  she fed the cat; he brushed his teeth.  she turned down the sides of their bed; he chose clothing for the morning.  and they met back in the muted light of their room, satisfied with the toil of their day and prepared to meet their rest together.  exchanging silly pleasantries and a kiss on the cheek, they’d extinguish the light and close their eyes for another night.

she never let him go before her, not once, after so many years.

“is it right that you should leave before me now?” he asked.  a tear rolled down her cheek and was absorbed by the pillow, her faint smile, bafflingly, lending a certain brightness to the moment.  he never had a choice before.  and no, he would not have a choice now.