The Pull of Memory

Dearest Rachel –

I’ve already mentioned this week about how the dark of the approaching solstice serves as a demotivating force towards getting things done during this season (which, given that it’s the beginning of the holiday season, is particularly inappropriate; there is so much more that needs to get done at this time of year, and yet, here I am, that much less in the mood to accomplish any of it). However, I’ve discovered a whole new factor that’s equally disincentivizing for me to make progress on the season’s tasks.

I’m sure that you’re well aware that I still sleep on my own side of the bed, rather than trying to occupy the middle ground. This shouldn’t come as any great surprise; a queen size bed has more than enough room for two people to sleep with plenty of space between them, so that there should be no concerns about uninvited contact. You’re familiar with this situation, going back as far as at least one Homecoming that I attended after graduating; despite staying with me for the night, nothing happened (as your mom could – much to her surprise – confirm many months later), and we even got a decent night’s rest, if I recall correctly (although, given concerns about my memory in past letters, I wouldn’t necessarily swear to it).

Besides, for the last decade or so, I’ve had to maintain a fairly immobile position in bed, because of occasional nagging back pains. Lately, it’s not been so much of a problem, but for a long time, I’ve had to sleep somewhat propped up at the waist, at a 20° angle or so. Considering that you preferred to sleep almost completely flat – to the point of using your own special pillow, half the normal size and a quarter normal width – this worked out well between us, as I would build a wedge out of pillows while you lay flat. All of this served to create a more obvious sense of which side was whose, and each of us kept to our own, apart from those times when we agreed to set those boundaries aside, of course.

All of which is not to say that I don’t move at all when I sleep. On the contrary, for all those memes about how everybody seems to have their very own sleep paralysis demon (along with their very own FBI agent watching their every move on the internet), I have no idea what they’re talking about. While most of my night is spent on my back, I will turn to one side or another from time to time. Heck, I suspect you used to nudge me to do so, on those occasions when I would snore a little bit too loudly, which you were well within your rights to do.

However, this amount of movement means that my body would carry – however unintentionally – a certain amount of linens towards my side of the bed with me. Of course, when you were still here, you would simply be able to pull those back to you, without me ever being the wiser. These days, however, I find myself having to adjust everything every second or third day, as I notice things in the morning practically falling off one side, and being pulled away from the other.

But here’s where things have gone a little off the rails…

Ever since returning from Israel, and resuming what approximates a normal schedule for me during the holidays – including a fair amount of online shopping – I’ve been building up a collection of presents for various family members. Since I haven’t been of a mind to box and wrap any of these things (particularly since most of them, didn’t arrive in a box, but rather one sort of plastic bag or another), they’ve been accumulating on the floor on your side of the bed, much like a pile of semi-used clothes back in times past (and no, I’m not trying to make fun of you for that – in fact, I’m basically pointing out that I’m just as guilty of this sort of practice as you ever were. Besides, you did make an effort to clean up your act, especially in the bedroom, since Chompers used to sleep on your side, and it wouldn’t do for him to get into your clothes and do heaven knows what to any of them).

Of course, with Kris coming in to clean the other day (and I want to tell you this as an aside, because you never had the courage to ask for help, for whatever reason – I cannot begin to tell you how liberating it is to leave the cleaning in the hands of a professional. Sure, there’s a lot of this we could have done on our own if we knew how and what to use where, but sometimes it’s just better to, if possible, leave the process to someone who knows what they’re doing. Maybe it’s just because, as a man, there’s no stigma in doing so, but I do wish we had been able to engage in this sooner. She even gave me advice about wrapping the presents – recommending that I go out and get some gift bags for most of the clothing and other unboxed items, rather than trouble myself with wrapping. Granted, it’s not advice that you would have taken, since you seemed to enjoy wrapping, but I’d like to think that you’d understand my taking her suggestion under consideration… eventually; I’ll get to that in a moment), I needed to get all of these packages off of the floor. So, I just grabbed them by the handful, and piled them onto your side of the bed.

In so doing, I find myself sensing a certain counterweight on the bed, as I sleep these last couple of days. Whenever I make a motion to turn, I’m aware of a slight tug against my own motion, as the packages resist the pull of my body upon the linens. In the dark, and in my obscured semi-conscious vision, there is a presence (presents?) on the other side, holding onto your ground. It’s not the same as your actually being there – they aren’t arranged in such a way that I might actually mistake the collective shape for a human form, but rather strewn about your side haphazardly – but in the darkness, it gives a strange forlorn comfort that I really can’t explain. The irony is that it leaves me that much less inclined to get the wrapping taken care of, as this would mean I have to do something about them, and ultimately remove them from where they take a certain small but significant place where you used to be.

I don’t know what you might think of the effects of these packages on my unconscious life, honey; maybe you’d be amused, maybe you’d pity me. In any event, I need to get on with my day, so if you’d be so kind as to move those packages so that I can get up, I’d appreciate it.

Oh, and keep an eye on me, and wish me luck; I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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