The house is dark, and though the air around me is cold enough to see my breath I am unable to feel the chill. In fact, I wake to find my bed sheets soaked beneath me, the duvet twisted tight around my legs like a vine, and one arm draped awkwardly across the bed to the empty space beside me.
Something has torn me from my dreams, but I can’t quite recall the sound through the fog of my recently departed sleep. I run a hand over the sheets where my husband usually sleeps. They are cold to the touch. A shiver runs through my body as my damp clothes steal my body heat. The empty bed suddenly seems vast and uninviting. Could it really be the same place I once spent long, lazy Sundays with my husband, light streaming in from the window heating our faces and warming our hearts? The memory is distant and fuzzy now; the edges blurred like an old photograph.
I drag my heavy body from its resting place. The moment my feet touch the ground I know something is wrong. A familiar sound calls to me from just beyond my reach. I can’t hear it, but I can feel it in my stomach and it’s pulling me by an invisible tether.
The room is dark apart from the light from a street lamp shining in through the open window. I’m sure I closed that window before I went to bed. I move to close it and trip over a pair of men’s shoes. Why would these be in the middle of the bedroom floor?
I tell myself I must just have forgotten doing these things. I haven’t been getting much sleep lately. As I head back toward the bed, the eerie sound returns, this time loud enough for me to identify. It is a faint wailing emanating from somewhere in the house.
I wrap a blanket around myself and venture out of the bedroom to find the source. I walk through the kitchen turning on lights as I go, and find that nothing is where I left it the night before. The dining chairs are scattered around the room, there is a loaf of bread on the floor and a gallon of milk sweating on the counter.
I return the milk to the fridge and continue on to the living room where the crying has now been replaced by a hushed whispering, like the sound of waves crashing against the shore: shoosh shoosh shoosh.
The room is lit only by the television, which I am positive I turned off the night before. I enter the room and I see the faint silhouette of my husband rocking in his favorite chair. His face is pale and his eyes are sunken and tired. He looks different than I remember him, and in that moment I realize I can’t remember when I last looked upon his face in the daylight.
I walk toward him and extend my hands. But instead of embracing, a small bundle passes between us. I can feel a chill as his body practically crosses though mine, without touching, once the exchange has been made. We pass each other without saying a word and I take his place in the deep recesses of the recliner. I watch helplessly, longing for a connection, as his body vanishes into the darkness of the kitchen.
I hear the fridge open, the sound of liquid being poured into a glass.
Footsteps on the stairs.
A window creaking open.
I peer down at the bundle cradled in my arms, and in the eerie glow from the television I see a tiny version of my husband’s mouth twisting into a familiar smile. Some nights I find myself burdened with a heavy sadness, like mourning for my partner, but as the sun rises and the light slowly illuminates the room, I am once again reminded by the sock on the floor, the crumbs on the counter, and the drawers left ajar, that I am not alone in this.