Voices. I hear voices. It is 3:00 in the morning, and I hear voices downstairs in the room directly below our bedroom. My spine stiffens as I sit straight up in bed. The down comforter, encased in a multi-toned blue cover slides off my chest. I sleep alone in our queen bed since Bob died six weeks ago. Even if I try to reach over to touch his shoulder to wake him, a simple reflex, perhaps a hope, his presence in our bed is over, forever, like all the words in Webster’s that define permanent.
I can’t hear what the voices are saying, but they are below me, directly below me and they are loud, almost as if fighting.
My mind retraces the steps I repeat each night before getting in bed. Earlier that evening, I latched the windows tightly as if to warn intruders that this home does not welcome them. I checked the house doors, all securely locked, most double locked with deadbolts. The door from the side yard into the garage was bolted tight enough to be glued shut. That sense of glue holds me together each night, allowing sleep to permeate my body. The alarm did its customary beep when I set it. So who is talking downstairs?
I have walls and locks and alarms all around me knowing I must create my own barricade after so many years of marriage. One gets used to having a stronger, larger person in the home. The doors must tire of me locking and unlocking them. The walls must tire of me more, posing and reposing the question, How did this happen? Why did he die? But I know the science, the medical truth. He died from leukemia, a simple fact that reduces his life to an eight-letter word that has such power that it can tip life upside down. Not just his life, but mine as well.
What are they saying downstairs? These voices are loud, talking at each other, as though squabbling, jabbing, testing one another. I shake my head slightly, tilting it to listen carefully and somehow the fogginess of sleep is tossed aside. How many burglars would come into a house and initiate what sounds like a family feud afire? Oh my god, it’s the TV! Suddenly, I feel safe. I know I am safe. No intruder would come into a locked house at 3:00 in the morning to turn on a damn TV.
I get out of bed, walk across the cream carpeting, grasp the bedroom door handle, and listen for the pop as it unlocks. The t-shirt that covers my body is tacky and thread-worn, and I hesitate before I begin my walk downstairs wondering if I should cover myself with a robe. What for? It’s just the TV!
I’m not a big fan of the HD widescreen that my husband purchased. Not that I have issues with televisions, but TV and computer screens are like magnets with seductive spin, engaging email, and questionably fabulous facebook pages. Screens were my competition. My husband loved them. To me they stole time from us, the two of us together, when there was so little time left.
The worst time thief was Fox News. I began to dislike O’Reilly. When Bob passed, I deleted the scheduled tapings of all the Fox shows. I no longer turned on the set and find myself face-to-face with Glenn Beck. I no longer had to hear Fox at a volume that worked for my husband’s fading hearing, but pounded on my own eardrums. Perhaps the only positive about my husband’s passing is that I gained control of the remote.
My insides still ache wondering if some part of him lingers on within the walls of our home. I hope for a sign, some simple little sign that he will stay by me to help me get through this pain. It is the way of grief. It was the same when my first husband died. Grief charts its own course, and those of us remaining on this plane of existence are left behind to follow grief’s path. I prefer driving.
I begin to walk downstairs, steadying myself, holding the wood railings that line the staircase, slowly placing my white-socked toes on each step at a pace reminiscent of a stroll through a park. Pausing at the landing, I become fully aware that I had turned off the television before coming to bed leaving the screen as black as black paint, the blue light on the Direct TV box dark. Who turned on the television?
I listen again. There is something familiar in the way these voices speak to each other. Oh, my God. I think the television is on Fox News! My legs hesitate no more, and I walk into the family room. Yes, it’s Fox News. I smile, perhaps for the first time ever while watching Fox. The remote sits on the table next to Bob’s easy chair, his pillow still plumped up and in place. I haven’t disturbed his space, hoping that some part of him will stay close so the ache in my heart is more bearable. I pick up the remote, watch Fox for ten seconds, and look back at his chair. Fox News, middle of the night, loud enough to wake the neighbors? I smile.
Okay, Bob, you made your point.
© 2012 Jeanette Reese