by Debra Hori
I have the hardest time at night when I actually have to climb in bed. There’s no escaping the loneliness I feel, and by then, I’m tired, vulnerable. I shared this bed with Robin for twenty-two years. It will take time for me to adjust, I tell myself. I try to be patient, but every night, I have to face that empty bed and the pain that goes with turning out the lights alone. Robin’s photo on my night stand is the last thing I see before my bedroom goes completely dark.
Right after Robin died, I just fell into bed in a heap and I cried myself to sleep every night, my sorrow and fatigue all mixed up. Then, I found myself staying up late…..midnight, then 2:00 a.m., doing anything would keep me company until I would hit the wall and drag myself off to sleep.
“Are you coming?” Robin used to say to me. He always raised his eyebrows at me and winked. What he wanted, what we both wanted, was those few moments of contact after we turned out the lights, as we folded ourselves into our practiced spooned position and drifted off to sleep together, his body next to mine, his heart beating against my back, our slow rhythmic breathing giving way to dreams.
I miss the heat his body generated, and the way he used to jump under the covers on cold nights scissoring his legs back and forth to warm up the bed. I’d put my icy feet on his legs, and sometimes he’d put his hands over my shoulders. Robin knew that whenever my shoulders would get too cold, I’d sneeze. It’s the little things I miss.
I didn’t leave the house for days while Robin was dying. The first thing I did the day after Robin died was to go buy a body pillow for myself. It made perfect sense to me. I needed one of those extra long pillows to absorb some of the empty space. Later, I put a heating pad under the covers. These devices remind me of bringing home a new puppy and placing a ticking clock and a hot water bottle in the box at night. Who are we kidding? Puppies know the hot water bottle and clock are not its littermates and mother. I know Robin is dead and the heating pad and body pillow are poor substitutes for a loving man I adored. I fell asleep in his arms every night and there is no substitute for that.
Slowly, I am learning how to be without Robin, and as I become just me again in my waking life, I suppose I will learn to sleep alone too. Until then, I know that my bed is not completely empty. I am in it.