We don’t touch while we’re sleeping. We move cautiously, careful not to disturb. There’s an invisible line drawn down the middle of the bed and we lie there facing different directions like passengers on separate trains.
It’s dawn when he gets up. From my side of the bed, I can see into the bathroom and through the shower door, his skin wrapped in steam, his flesh behind the glass, so tender and remote, and I watch like it’s television.
These are lonesome sounds: his feet padding softly down the stairs, his spoon clanking against the side of the bowl in the kitchen, the front door shutting softly, his car starting up and pulling away. Outside, the crows are cawing, cawing.
Through the bedside window I watch a lone crow clinging to a telephone wire. The wind tosses her but she bows her head and holds on tight. I should get out of bed but my body resists. I call it inertia; I’m waiting for the external force of my daughter’s voice to pull me from bed to stumble into the day.
I perform the daily motions– the making of tea, the doing of dishes, the brushing of hair, the packing of lunches–my ritual of postures. It’s stop motion animation, it’s a bird’s eye view. The things I do because I care, even though I don’t feel a thing. My post is in front of the sink in the kitchen, where my feet have worn a patch in the wood. The reflection in the mirror is nothing new. It’s all far away and fading, like warmth absorbed by glass.
Outside, the crows are waiting. I toss peanuts into the street and turn away, knowing they won’t descend until I have retreated to a safe distance. I hug my big girl at the door and I feel her body endure it, waiting for me to let go. My friends are distant voices on the phone. I sit down to my computer where I fold what’s inside me into black letters against a white background and send it off into the ether. If the light is right and I screw up my eyes just so, I can see my face superimposed over these words on the screen. I stand at the sink with my fingers in the running water, feeling the flow, watching it eddy down the drain.
Intimacy is a feathered thing that comes without warning, falling from the sky. And just like that it flutters off. I stand here with my arms outstretched, whispering pretty words to coax it back.
What are the magic words? How can I find him in the darkness, how to make him see? How do I put my heart into my fingertips so my daughter can feel it? How can I get the crows to come down, sit on my shoulder, and whisper in my ear? How do you pull your world closer, as close as the blankets on the bed?
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Hope is the Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.