You used to have these sleeping problems. It was like the shutdown mechanism in your brain was broken. Hours were spent tossing and turning as you broke down every detail of the day over and over, thinking about what you should’ve said; what you should’ve done. Eventually you’d get up and warm a glass of milk, because you had heard somewhere that was supposed to help. It never did.
In college you’ll recruit your roommates into your sleepless nights. You’ll talk until 4 am about nonsense: about your biggest fears; about your thoughts on death and about that cute guy in your critical theory class. When the sun comes up you’ll smudge concealer onto the dark circles that lay thick under your eyes. At some point you’ll ask your psychiatrist for drugs. “Please,” you’ll say, “I’m so tired I can’t see straight.” You’ll pop one Ativan every night and slip into a dreamless slumber.
But still. You’ll have those nights. The tick-tick-tick of the clock scratching at your ears.
But then one day, without trying, you fall in love. You’ve been in love before, but this is different. This loves calms you–it makes you feel safe. You lower your guard just a little. You feel like you can breathe again for the first time in years. It feels good. Really good. Your brain stops buzzing and you drift to sleep. You wake up and he’s still there. Soft and warm and present and you let your guard down a little more. You start sleeping. Real, uninterrupted sleep. You throw away the meds and you find yourself smiling and you kind of like that.
One day, you drive down to the beach. Just the two of you. He parks the car in front of a little bungalow–the kind that you spent your summers at as a kid–and you get out and walk. You walk until your bones ache and you both laugh when you realize that you still have to walk all the way back. He playfully kicks sand at you and you chase each other into the ocean.
Later on he’ll tell you that he’s in love with you and you’ll smile and sheepishly say that you love him too. Then you’ll fall asleep together and you’ll forget what it was like before him.
You’ll write each other letters even though you see each other every day. You’ll fight the urge to jump into his arms every time you see him, because you don’t want him to know just how much you might love him; how much you might need him. He laughs at all your stupid jokes and makes you feel safe. It doesn’t take much.
You’ll get really drunk one night together off cheap tequila and spray paint a wall in your room in an intoxicated-inspired blip of creativity. You’ll accidentally get high off the fumes and make out in the shower like two giggly teenagers.
When your Dad is diagnosed with cancer and the wind is knocked out of you, he’ll be the only one that will make you feel like everything will be ok.
You’ll have pizza Sundays and movie nights and he’ll make fun of you for falling asleep five minutes into the film every single time.
When you finally get a full-time job he’ll be so happy for you. You’ll smile wide and he’ll make you dinner in celebration and you’ll fall asleep together on the couch and it will all feel so normal. Like how you always thought love should be: comfortable–and you’ll start building the rest of your life in your head.
But then you’ll have moments where you still feel so alone. Those moments will grow. He’s not happy. Maybe you’re not either. Things become difficult. You have to work harder. The room is heavy with all the things you aren’t saying and you start thinking, maybe this isn’t right.
You’ll argue about small things. He’ll complain about money constantly. You’ll cry about how much you hate your job. You’ll sit on the edge of the bed together and stare at the wall, not saying anything.
You’ll find yourself wanting to stay out longer with your friends. You don’t want to go home. Home is draining. The relationship is draining and you’ll think, this isn’t right. It feels different in a bad way. He doesn’t hold you like he used to. Smiles are forced.
You feel yourself start to pull away.
One day he’ll breathe into the phone, “I didn’t see us ending like this,” and you’ll cry on the other end, wondering where it all went wrong. Your chest will tighten and crack and you’ll cling on to the moment, knowing that it will be the last one you’ll share.
Eventually, you’ll fall asleep on your side of the bed, a habit which you’ll never quite break.