Days to Go Before I Sleep
by Christina Villafaña Dalcher
My hair has grown back out now, but the pain in my side gets worse. Feels almost as if something’s growing in there, the same feeling I had before my kids were born. I am old now, and this time it’s not life inside me.
At night I curl up on the bed next to him and he strokes my head, whispering little things. I like the sound of his voice. It’s almost enough to take the pain away. Almost.
I want to tell him I’m done, have him put a soft pillow over my head and let me go. I want to, but I can’t.
While he sleeps, I ponder the methods.
Pills won’t work. Or maybe they would, but I wouldn’t know what or how many to take, even if I could make it to the medicine cabinet by myself and get the damned bottle open. It’s not in me.
The .45 in his nightstand? That would do the trick—quickly, if not cleanly. He won’t use it, though. And I’d never in a million years be able to hold a gun to my own head.
I don’t know how many knives he has in the kitchen. I’ve seen him work with them, fileting a piece of fresh fish, cutting steak into small pieces that I can manage, slicing oranges to make juice. Never much liked orange juice for breakfast—I’ve always been more of a milk gal. Anyway, forget the knives. That’s messy work, and I can’t handle the idea—or the process—of self-mutilation.
No more stairs for me. He picks me up at night and carries me to the bedroom as if I weigh nothing. I hear him sigh as he lays me down on the pillow and slides in next to me. I sense he’s crying.
Warm milk sits on the kitchen counter, but I don’t want it. Not today.
Oh, God, this thing in my side has started to suppurate. I make a feeble attempt to clean away the pus and blood. He notices and takes me into the bathroom so he can do it for me. Tonight he’ll put a towel on my side of the bed.
I wake him up. He leaves the room and comes back with more towels. I know from the smell that I’m incontinent. I turn my eyes toward him and ask the question.
He’s made up a spare bed downstairs. When he kisses me goodnight and heads toward our room, his cheeks are moist. I lie in my new bed, dry-eyed, wishing I could sleep. Forever.
In the morning he brings me water and something to eat. My nose twitches once, and I refuse.
Tonight he doesn’t climb the steps, but stays to sleep with me.
I haven’t eaten or drunk for two days. When I wake up, I reach over and touch his face. It’s time. He kisses me and gets out of bed to make The Call. After he’s finished, he swaddles me with a clean blanket and takes me in his arms to the car.
The needle goes in and stings for a moment. He strokes my head, the same way he’s done during our fourteen years together. I hear his voice telling me sweet things, telling me to rest, telling me of bridges and rainbows and milk and mice.
I purr one last time and go to sleep.