Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Voice of Insomnia


You think you don't know me, Hannah Baum, but think again. I've slept in your bed, rested my body in the same place you rest yours, so heavy with child, every night. I've laid my head on your pillow and read your thoughts that are so haunted by the natural childbirth you know you can't risk. I’ve been in your closet and worn your clothes, and your husband has snapped shots of me posing like a happy hippie, dressed in your 1960s floral hat with the purple trim, and nothing else. I’ve tried on your comical granny shoes, the ones with insoles, the ones you’re always wearing because you’re always pregnant. We laughed at you behind our hands, your husband and I, like teenagers sharing a secret. My back, my stomach, my legs, my hair, have been caressed by the 1,500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets our man bought you for Valentine's Day, and the smell of my skin has mingled with the smell of yours. I didn't get her anything for her, specifically, he’d told me. We’ll be using them, too, you and me. And it's true that we'd stained the burgundy sheets with our love. But is this consolation? I can't leave her, he says. What would happen with the kids?
When he's with you, I’m in my bed aching for him. You’re in your bed, with him at your side breathing deeply. My man has no worries, you tell yourself, and you smile like a moronic beast. It’s a sham, Hannah. His rest is the rest of the guilty. He prays, before he kisses your breasts swollen with milk for his fifth child, that he won’t whisper I love you, Isabel into your ear when his body is dancing in ecstasy and his mind is bent at an obtuse angle from reality. He prays to some God of the Unfaithful every night, before he succumbs to sleep, that he won't wake up in the middle of the night screaming the name of another woman. Who knows how many lovers he has? But you don't get any sleep, either. You're on your back, like me, staring blindly at the ceiling in the pitch-blackness of the night, your right hand resting on your belly, like you can protect your child from the truth.
I know what you're thinking, Hannah. You're thinking you're scared about the natural childbirth, though you're not letting on. You're thinking maybe you should go with the C-section, after all - doctor says there's still time to change your mind. You're thinking this man is the father of your four kids and the fifth that's on the way, and he’s so in love with you his heart is bursting with it. But you're so wrong, Hannah, and you know it – you know there’s another woman. You know because he’s left home for “the office” at the oddest hours. You know because your intuition made you call his office one day to ask about the number to the hotel he was staying in on his “conference trip to Albuquerque,” and they’d said, What conference? And you know because after five kids and eight years of marriage, there's no room for I'm fliphappy in love. You're more like friends than lovers. You're spouses – comfortable in the familiarity of one another’s presence and in your shared contentment with mediocrity. And you know why else you're wrong, Hannah? Because he loves me - Isabel - but he won’t tell you that. You are about to have his fifth child, and he doesn’t want to upset you by confirming your suspicions. He keeps watering you like a tree and you keep bearing him fruit; it’s a win-win situation for both of you. I concede – he'll never leave you. But...
If I tell you something, Hannah, can you handle it? If I tell you I'm carrying his child, too, can you handle it? Yes, it's true. No, he doesn't know, and I'm not going to tell him. I'll let him figure it out. And he'll have to fight it out with himself over whether or not he's going to tell you about his love child. I know it's cruel of me. Really, I do. But it'll give him something to think about. For once, he'll be staying up at night, not you and me. He'll be on his back with his eyeballs glued to the ceiling, our man. It won't be long, now.
I know the barrenness in your chest when you don't have someone to go to in your time of need. I know the restless anxiety of driving around in the devil’s hour, on your third sleep-deprived night in a row, your body as stiff as a block of ice, your senses as charged as live wire, trying to hypnotize yourself on the deserted, floodlit roads. When you’ve had enough of white snow on black asphalt, black ice, rain, black ice, white snow, rain, white asphalt, black snow, black ice, you take yourself home and carefully lay yourself down in bed, closing your bloodshot, burning eyes with a sense of relief because, surely, now, you will sleep. You stretch out your sore legs, all the way to the footboard, like someone is pulling on them. But your hands are rolled up into hard little cannonballs and your eyes are like glass marbles. You can't take a sleeping pill. You can't have a drink. But you won't have to worry about that, Hannah, because I'll be there for you. And for him. When your fifth child is here, there’ll be no more lovemaking in your home. Oh, don’t worry, you’re not going to be that ugly. But you’re not going to be that pretty, either. Your face, which is now glowing with hormones, will be ashen and pasty, like the pith of an orange. Your body will be a deflating mass of flesh. You'll have bat wings under your arms, stretch marks on your stomach, fat dimples on your ass, and mini donuts around your eyes. So he'll be coming to me for his doses of toe-curling pleasure. And when it’s time for me... well, I’ll worry about that then. I’m not due for another eight months.
You think I'm crazy, Hannah. Crazy or drunk or stoned or maybe hallucinating or maybe all of these things put together. No. I am tired. But my mind is as sharp as a razor. And I'll be waiting for you. And for him. And when I have our love child, our man will never leave me, either.

7 comments:

  1. I noticed this evening that you have recently begun following my blog. Thank you for that. And for leading me here. Congratulations on your entrance into blogging. You have a most interesting site and I know I shall return here often. It is always a delight to meet a fellow lover of words! Best to you!

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  2. I found this uncomfortable reading, but that I suspect was because it felt true and raw. Like Nancy, I didn't like Isabel, but then no-one comes out of this type of situation very well. To say I enjoyed it isn't quite accurate: I felt challenged by it and that's always beneficial.

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  3. Pamela, I'm glad to know you will be returning to my blog. I'm also very happy to have stumbled upon your site. There is so much good writing out there, and it's great to have found yours.

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  4. Madame DeFarge, I'm quite fascinated by the fact you found my writing to be challenging. My intent isn't always to please. Much of reality is not so pleasant, and sometimes we need to see it in print for that to sink in. If this is what happened in your case, then I've reached a goal and I'm thrilled to know it. Please don't hesitate to return.

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  5. Your writing is awesome, no two ways about it.

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  6. I chose to read this because of the "insomnia" title but it wasn't what I was expecting (pardon the pun). You should consider selling your short stories to magazines. You are that good of a writer. Or write a book. I write snippets of good stuff every now and then but nothing like this. I know I shouldn't but it made me feel for all three characters. Or... is Isabel even real or is that the lack of sleep putting thoughts in the wife's head? Lack of sleep can do strange things to the mind.

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  7. My, this was a bit eerie. I recollect a film that I saw some time ago whose name I don't recollect. It was quite sad, though.

    Much love.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.