He hasn’t moved all night. Usually he flops around the bed like a fish. We play tug of war with certain choice pillows. Throw off blankets – put on sleeping bags. Turn off the fan, turn on the fan. Go to the bathroom. Take a pill. Get water. See what the noise is. Put our night shades on. We’re more active as a couple at night, then during the day.
But now I am laying here afraid to touch him. What if he is cold, and hard, and …. we never talk about death. Never. We have never in our ten years of marriage had that necessary conversation about what would you like done? Where would you like to be put? I think he’s more afraid of it than I am. And I am. When I was young and first learned about death, I just decided that I wouldn’t. I made up the rule that if I did a somersault into bed every night, I would never die. This totally relaxed me about the subject, absolutely certain that this would work. So for years I somersaulted into bed. I never told anyone why; my mother, friends who slept over. It was just my quirky way of getting into bed. And then one night many years after making this bargain, I was tired or maybe even drunk, and I forgot to somersault in. I woke panicked in the middle of the night. I’d known I’d blown it. I had had it in my hands, the power to be immortal. And I blew it.
He gets overwhelmed by the infinity of a starry night. An endless field of purple wildflowers gives him a panic attack. So the thought of eternity just ain’t a topic for conversation.
I turn roughly in the bed to see if that will stir him. No movement. I stare at the wood beamed ceiling. Watch the ceiling fan turn and notice the thick layer of dust on it.
He would want a Jewish service I know that. He prays quietly every night before bed. I don’t think he knows I know. We’ve never discussed it.
The alarm goes off, his alarm – a clock radio. A moment of Santana plays. He grunts, gets out of bed and turns off the radio. I ask him how he slept. He mumbles something unintelligible without looking at me.
We get up, we dress, we go off to our daily lives. We never talk about it.
***Laurel Ollstein lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two great dogs. She is working on her memoir Freud's Opening Night.