The Dead Hours

Yesterday, I spent three hours in bed, staring either at the ceiling or out the window at the twilight skyline, holding the comforter in close to my body. I occasionally shook — my lower lip, my hands — and as I tried to settle into my yoga-inspired comfort pose (right hand on my heart, left hand on my belly), I felt my heart shaking, too.

Breath wanted to be simultaneously in me and out of me, a constant cycle of inhalation-exhalation accelerating without me, and I hated having a body that felt so many ways at once:

A rubber band stretched, and cracking, and ready to break, to fling itself across the room and lie morbidly still;

A stone of massive density, or a piece of petrified wood, carved into place by nature or design, and utterly immobile;

An atom vibrating quick enough to move through solid, liquid, and gas to plasma, that unstable space of heat and speed.

Once upon a time, I received constructive criticism from a well-meaning person, and I crumpled in on myself. A children’s bounce-house shaped like a castle that’s sprung a leak, The turrets all fold inward to make a central peak, and the rest shrivels into wrinkles, little pockets where darkness can hide.

When I was a college freshman and needed to cry, I would do it in the shower. The sound of the water would drown me out, the near-to-scalding water would burn away the sorrow, and I would leave the bathroom with two towels — one on my head, one on my body — as if nothing had happened.

Eight years later, I stepped into my shower, but there were no tears, and the water sealed the things that hurt, and I thought of the scene in that Anne Hathaway movie where the supporting actress locks herself in the bathroom and melodramatically cuts her wrists with a razor head. I wondered how.

I put myself in bed because I wanted so badly to take up a kitchen knife, the pointed end of a corkscrew, a thumb tack from the junk drawer — but my husband. My husband.

My body is my own, to hurt, neglect, or nourish, but I gave my insubstantial Self to someone else who would not want to see bloody limbs.

I believe sometimes in the power of bloodletting — to let the numbness out, to feel something clean and precise, controlled.

I had thought this belief had been abandoned long ago.

And I mummified myself in our marriage bed, willing myself into stone, impregnating my mind with a thought-seed: No matter what rages inside, be still. It will pass.

I was there for three hours. I do not know if I slept.

Later, I emerged from my sick bed. I ate, and drank water — I hadn’t cried, but my body felt desiccated. An alarming cicada shell. I did the things that people do.

There was even real laughter, probably desperate, but real nevertheless.

Nothing, though, to erase the dead hours. They come, they take you, and they go.

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