Written by Britni Ruff
Every day is a new hell. My body is breaking down, crying out, begging to taste sweet rest once more. I hear the yearning but cannot bring myself to take heed. For when I enter my own subconscious mind, I meet a man who bears a striking resemblance to you, both in demeanor and appearance. He’s bright and funny, like you. Sexy and free-spirited, like you. And smart and candid and robust. He, too, is romantic beyond words. Not just in a candlelit dinner kind of way, but in a way that shows just how intentional he is with the thoughts that run through his beautiful mind. He sends me handwritten letters, even though we live together, because he loves the way my face lights up when I get mail. He leaves the bubble wrap for me when he gets packages because he knows that the feeling of the plastic bursting underneath my fingers and toes is a mixture of catharsis and child-like joy that sometimes carries me to my next breath. When he wakes up in the morning… I don’t want to finish this thought because I’m well aware of how unfair that comparison is given the circumstances that put you here but the fact is… the man in my dreams wakes up and that, I think, is the most intoxicating thing about him. When I first got the call, I was inconsolable to say the least. Every step I took to prepare myself for the trip to the hospital brought forth a new, more crippling version of the reality I had yet to wrap my mind around, and by the time we reached the emergency room, I’d arrived at a level of hysteria that warranted my own admittance. I was taken to a room and sedated and that… is where I first met him. He comforted me for 24 full hours while my body and mind recovered, so effectively that I emerged with no recollection of what had happened. In the days that followed my release, I found myself seeking him out more and more. I’d been barred from seeing you for a few days because my “mental state” was “fragile” and I “wasn’t yet ready to potentially experience another bout of shock”. So I stayed in the house, our house, and sat, alone, for hours, until sitting still became too much of a task. Then I started pacing, cleaning, working, doing anything I could to avoid having to face the impending grief I’d managed to confine to the deepest recesses of my mind. In those days, he was the only way I could get to sleep.
Finally, I was permitted to see you, and I realized just how grave a mistake the hospital staff had made by keeping me from you in the first place. If I’d seen you when you first arrived, I would have been horrified at the sight of your mangled body, sure. But at least it would have been you. The man in the room they escorted me to may as well have been a complete stranger. The swelling in your face made your once distinct cheek bones no more discernible than rain water that has fallen into the ocean. Your strong jawline was now crooked and uneven, replacing the ease and confidence in your natural expression with a grimace that I read to mean pain and uncertainty. I later came to learn that the mug your mouth had twisted into was a result of your jaw being wired shut, and was in no way representative of what it was you were actually feeling. Words from the doctor that I’m sure were meant to comfort me after I’d been bombarded with medical jargon about hairline fractures and intracranial pressure provided me with little solace. I realized in that moment that I would have no way of knowing how you did feel. I was well-versed in the nuance of your expressions. No matter how hard you tried to conceal your emotions, especially in the courtroom, I could always read you like a book. I briefly imagined getting to know your new face, having you tease me because you’d finally have the upper hand in a poker game. I marveled at how the equipment surrounding the bed and looming over your body somehow made you, 6′, 240 pound you, look as small and vulnerable as a child. I gently stroked your forehead, meticulously avoiding all the cuts and bruises, and it reminded me of the manner in which I would wake you up from your naps so that you could finish reading over whatever motions you’d been handed that day. I wept quietly, understanding that no amount of caressing would bring you out of this slumber. I left the hospital and retreated to the bed, to him once more. This time, he was just another incentive to never wake up again. But today I did wake up. And I conceded that I can’t hide in his arms anymore. I can’t reconcile being drunk with the wine of his world while you lay trapped in your own mind, forced to confront the pain that is inevitable for your healing. It feels like a betrayal of trust, of everything I vowed to you when we became one. So here I sit. Alone and awake, watching the rise and fall of your chest, internalizing the rhythm of the machinery that works tirelessly to relieve you from the burden of breathing so that your body can focus on the real work. I gaze upon your still, calm face and wonder if you, too, have a mistress in your mind who entices you to remain engulfed in the comfort of her bosom. I pray she doesn’t keep you too long.