Fragments

The sheets smell of salt and they rub coarsely on her skin. She guesses they were hung out on the line to dry. She resists the urge to toss and turn, as if doing so would in some way disturb her sleeping son, who is awake in the living room, surely hunched over his laptop, squinting his green eyes at some puzzling figures. It had been this way when he was still at home, too- her feeling distanced and worried that she would upset him. It was for no good reason, her feeling this way. No reason that she could explain at all. 

 

She hears some clattering of the keys on the keyboard and then a brief silence before she hears the soft plume of air that gushes out of an opening refrigerator door, the pull of rubber away from metal. Then there comes the clamor of cutlery, a faucet easing on, and eventually brisk footsteps past the bedroom, back into the living room. He clears his throat. Heat swells inside her, surging up from her chest and spilling into her brain. Does he know she is listening? No, she thinks, of course not, you old bird. She hears a glass set down on a hard surface- the coffee table or maybe the floor beside his recliner. She realizes she’s thirsty, but she won’t bother him with that.

 

It’s rude to listen so intently to his doings; she knows. She sandwiches her head between two pillows and thinks about home. She wonders what her husband is doing this time of night back on the other coast. Is he pacing the house, climbing down the stairs and crossing to the kitchen for what he would rationalize as just a few crackers with cheese, making this trip many times in a night, until the entire cheese block is gone? She’d admonished his Santa Belly, because it isn’t decent to be overweight, and she does worry about his health, but she secretly covets its plushness, the warmth of it pressed to her body in one of their increasingly rare embraces. Is he sound asleep, some fishing show flickering across a darkened room, the boating guide’s voice competing against Carl’s chainsaw snore, prevailing only in those moments when Carl hiccoughs on his own breath and struggles in silence for the next pull of air? Or is he sleeping quietly now that he is alone, having saved the peace for solitude, his arm hanging over the edge, hairy knuckles nearly grazing the floor?

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