I wrote this last night, yawning in bed, but not able to sleep:
I press my cheek against the surprisingly cold tile while the unbearably hot water pours down my body. I hear the slow song that we used to dance to come on the radio, and crank the hot water half a notch, hoping that the blood screaming in my ears will drown out Garth Brooks singing about being shamelessly in love. With the scald of the hot water comes the numbness I had been praying for, and when I turn the shower off, the deejay’s voice on the radio leaves no memory of a love song.
I brush the curtain aside and step out of the shower into the steaming room, grab the towel and rub my skin raw. I pump a dollop of cream onto my palm and rub it into my arms. I make smooth circles with my hands up and down my arms, and when I break out of that trance I am staring at myself in the mirror, the cream dissolved into my flesh leaving behind its fragrant reminder. Beneath the once electric blue of my eyes are dark rims, dark as a bruise. Dark as though sleep had slugged them hard but then ran away, not wanting to give in and give rest.
I pull the satiny nightgown over my head, and smooth the straps onto my shoulders, the side seams along my hips. I pause for one moment running my hand along my waist, tracing the place where your hand once belonged. It seems frivolous to wear this gown to bed alone, as though it’s being wasted. I fill the cup with water from the tap and take a long drink, feeling a stream of water flow down my chin and onto my chest and I remember all those times that I would come to bed with the hollow between my breasts still damp, and you would laugh at me for not being able to drink water and stay dry.
My hair is dripping water onto my back when I pull the sheets back on the bed. I forgot to dry my hair. Every night, something else is forgotten from this routine of mine. It was once a routine that I had known so well, timed so predictably, but there is one crucial element missing now, and the simple tasks of daily living have become jumbled. The crucial element in this routine could always be found at the end. It was turning back the sheets and finding you in them.
So I let the pillows dry my hair for me. And perhaps if sleep doesn’t elude me tonight, I’ll have a chance at making it through the day tomorrow. And perhaps if I make it through the day tomorrow, I’ll have a chance at remembering how to sleep alone.