Years Without Sleep — Part 2

(This is part 2 of a 6-part story. From my short story anthology, Naked Ladies: Seasons of the Heart.

Later that week, my husband, Dan, sat down at the dinner table, took one look at my new version of ‘blackened’ meat loaf, and took his plate to the sink in the kitchen.

“Can’t eat this, Margie,” he called over his shoulder. “Haven’t been able to eat much you’ve cooked for the past few months. Throw it away and let’s go out.” He stood in the kitchen doorway, scratching his head. “What’s up? You used to be a good cook.”

He was right. I did ‘used to be a good cook,’ but now I couldn’t complete a meal without burning at least one of the dishes. Usually it was the bread, but other times, one of the veggies steamed itself dry in the saucepan or, like tonight, I’d leave the oven on just a little too hot or just a little too long. While I was cooking, I’d pick up something to read, go through the day’s mail, or let my mind wander. Before I knew it, something was burnt.

Dan didn’t look mad, but he wasn’t happy. We went out for pizza.

“So what’s going on with you?” He asked as we finished eating. “This cooking thing and the not sleeping. What do you think it is?” Dan leaned over the table at the pizza parlor and put on his best listening face. As a junior high coach he was darn good at listening, but that didn’t mean he had the patience to deal with his own wife’s problems.

“I don’t know. I can’t sleep. I can’t concentrate. I lose track of time. I forget what I’m doing.”

He clasped his hands together and let his thumbs fight with one another for a few seconds before he said in his deepest voice. “Classic symptoms of an infatuation. Are you having an affair?”

My fork clattered onto my plate. “What? Of course not! How could you even think . . . ?” I pushed away from the table and rushed to the ladies’ room.

I stared at myself in the mirror. Had he really asked if I was having an affair? I stared at my reflection. Skin bagged beneath eyes bright from the half gallon of coffee I’d consumed today. My hair was slightly disheveled and longer than I usually wore it. My t-shirt fit snugly over my rounded breasts, maybe too tight for a woman my age.

An affair? My husband was over the top on this one. And maybe I was overreacting. Had Dan been joking? Was I so tired I no longer recognized my own husband’s jokes?

“I won’t even bother to respond to that question, it’s so ridiculous,” I said when I got back to the table. I threw him a smile, but Dan did not return it. If he had been joking before, he wasn’t joking now. We ate the rest of the meal and drove home in silence. At home, he carried his shaving kit into the extra bathroom, went into Tim’s room and shut the door.

Good, I told myself. Maybe that’s what my problem has been. His snoring. He’s been keeping me from sleeping. But I didn’t sleep any better that night than the previous night. I slept worse. Truthfully, I missed the even in and out whooshing of Dan’s breath, and the warmth of his body beside me.

The next day, Dan was gone to work by the time I came out of the bedroom. I hoped this was only a one night misunderstanding. Surely we’d discuss it the next evening and he’d be back in bed with me that night. But we didn’t discuss it and Dan didn’t come back to our bedroom, not that night or any night the following week.

I still couldn’t sleep.

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