Blinded by the Night

By A. P. Joye

I think he’s asleep as I watch his eyes flicker as if he’s going insane from the terror of his dreams. The clock says “3:41am.” This will be another night that I don’t sleep, added onto a long list of laying-awake nights where the stars won’t quiet down and the ceiling won’t stop moving. It’s okay, I think to myself, I can sleep tomorrow. I’ll just have to call in sick again. My boss won’t mind; as long as I wear a low-cut blouse the next time I see him, he won’t care if I call in sick all of next week.

I hate my job. It’s one of those things that you start when you’re young and naïve enough to believe that it’s temporary. But, it’s not. And neither is my marriage. I got married really young and my parents didn’t like it. I’m not sure why I did it, although sometimes I think I know the answer.

He had just turned eighteen and I was nineteen-and-a-half. Neither of our parents wanted to imagine their kids having sex on their on honeymoon, so we had to wait for him to turn eighteen. There were no frills, “just married” drive-aways, bird-killing rice throws. It was strictly business even though I’m pretty sure we were in love. I can’t be certain because we grew up together and I’m not sure that anyone who grows up seeing someone else’s faults the way their parents see them can ever really love them. 

Apparently, he’s bothered because he flops over like a hooked fish, landing squarely on his stomach and a crooked neck. The way his body contorts makes me nauseous if I concentrate too hard. I laugh out loud and clamp a hand over my mouth. It amuses me to think about the mind purposely putting the body in a state of discomfort to fuck with it. 

I check the clock again. “3:57am.” Almost my lucky number, I exclaim within the confines of my mind. Four, that’s my lucky number. When I was born, I joined three siblings who all dwarfed me in age. If you asked my mother, she’d say that four was anything but lucky for her. Maybe that’s why she was so afraid of any one of her daughters having sex: we might pop a condom and end up with a fourth kid born in April like she did. Even if I had a kid, I’m pretty sure that Geena would take them before I even had a chance to say I didn’t want them. Her wife might have something to say about that though. 

The ceiling is beyond boring to watch. But, now that my husband won’t provide me entertainment with his flaring and unflaring nostrils, I have to count the peaks and valleys in the absent ceiling. Couldn’t the previous owners have at least plastered some sort of wallpaper up there out of courtesy to those who lurk in any shadowy crevices that invite them to imagine something that can make the waking minutes past faster?

I’ve never really liked the home anyway. It’s a bit too American-Dream for me. The walls feel too unlived in and fresh. The outside is way too American Gothic and it all just reminds me of what my mother would have absolutely loved. Every second that we lived in the city, my mom complained, while a cigarette dangled on the edge of her mouth, that the smog had caused her lung cancer. Not to mention that she lived in small town Indiana until she decided that the only way she’d avoid inbreeding was if she left for the big city. 

I try closing my eyes to shut out the limited amount of life that has never been to blame for my lack of sleep. My father used to never admit that he was taking a nap, preferring to call it “checking for holes in his eyes” and for so long I never understood what that meant. Rather than imagining quite grotesque version of someone having holes in their eyes, visible only to the person that they afflict, I imagined always being able to count on seeing the stars. Even when your eyes were closed. I always thought about the ancient belief that stars are created by holes poked into a giant, black sphere that encompasses the world. For some reason, I always liked the implication that, outside of the big, black sphere, was an incredible amount of life. So incredible that any area that it could penetrate, it’d do so with incredible brilliance. I guess I could even attribute my once-upon-a-time desire to be an astronomer. I gave up on that pretty quick when I realized that I’d have to surrender my imagination for the truth. 

I open my eyes again and turn my head towards my still-contorted husband, who never seems to be bothered by his beloved wife’s inability to fall asleep. I could so easily kill him and he would never know what hit him or slit his throat. I’ll never tell him that this a thought I’ve had on many occasions mostly because he’d never understand. He’s the kind of person who doesn’t always like to listen to you. He’s reactive. Like dynamite. Without so much as a hint, he can explode and leave blocks in peril. All that’s left is the heaviness of regret in the air because I ignored my intuition to stop sooner. That, and all of the eggshells that I had to keep intact for his sake. 

It’s fascinating to consider how vulnerable one is when they sleep. I could tell him I hate him or that I want a divorce or that I fucked another man and he’d be none the wiser. Then, in ten years when the truth finally comes to light about my scandalous dalliance with another man, I can say “I told you” and that would be just as true as any scandalous affair would be. He never would think to qualify his demand for why I hadn’t told him sooner with his being conscious.  At least I can be sure he has never cheated on me, unlike those women on soap operas who have sex with other people to get back at their one-true-love of the episode. I know he has never cheated because he leaves himself vulnerable to me and I never leave myself vulnerable to him, not by choice but a happy coincidence. 

How can it already be 4:22? I don’t know why I’m surprised by that light that is both blinding and my own refuge. In the recesses of this room, I find myself drawn to it yet unable to stare it directly in the face. The blue hues that it casts around the room dance fantastically on every surface, but not more than the streetlights on the other side of our dusty blinds. Sometimes, I try throwing a washcloth over the numbers hoping that I’ll finally be able to sleep. However, at some point during the night or morning, I inevitably find myself removing the washcloth and carefully placing it next to the clock on the nightstand. I could say that I remove the washcloth because I want to know the time when it’s the middle of the night and every hour looks the same. But, somehow, I don’t think that’s true. Despite the darkness being the key to my slumber, at least in my non-existent dreams, I find comfort in the light that’s always shining over my left shoulder. 

My husband has no such clock on his side of the bed. He claims that his phone can wake him up if I don’t do it first. I never volunteered for that job, but maybe the light volunteered me.