Cantankerous Heart

May 2, 2010
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The alarm wakes me. I feel the sleep fall off of you when it beeps again. Do you even remember setting the alarm? I never have to tell you to like I do with everything else. Yet it goes off every morning at six thirty, just like it has for the past forty-seven years. It wakes me up, too, but I try to go back to sleep. I’m still tired from the hospital.

I feel the tug on the covers as you roll out of bed, and hear the whispered pat-pat of your feet hitting the floor. When you hobble around the bed and enter the bathroom, the loose floorboard creaks. How many times have I asked you to fix that?

The bathroom fan is turned on before you get in the shower, and I sigh. Remember the argument we always have about the shower fan?

“The steam ruins the ceiling and the wallpaper,” you say. “You need to turn the fan on every time you shower.”

I still don’t turn it on, just to irk you.

When you come out of the bathroom the light hits my face. It burns my eyes through my eyelids, and I squint, scrunching up my wrinkled skin. I’ve always hated how you leave the light on in the bathroom; it’s a waste of electricity. Sometimes I think you do it just to tick me off, just like when you leave the cap off of the toothpaste, or when you don’t hang up your Sunday sport coat.

As I hear you getting dressed—in the khaki trouser and sweater combination you’ve worn practically every day since the kids left home—I wonder how we got to be like this. Did love fade out over the years, just like the color in our hair? Was it when our bones became brittle and our backs hunched that this became a routine?

You walk out of the room, over that one floorboard again, and as it creaks my heart pounds. I notice each beat more since the heart attack. Just like I’ve noticed how quiet you’ve been since I came home. Do you know something that I don’t?

A wave of exhaustion hits me as I hear you grinding the beans for the coffee. As I drift off, I know that I love you. I smile as the blackness settles over me, and as I reach sleep, the dark is penetrated by a white light.

I move toward it.

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