the cold

by laurie howland

It is cold…his side of the bed. An empty cold not a winter cold. A lonely cold, the kind you feel when you are lost, afraid, unsure. A cold that no blanket can solve. She dare not rollover and look at his side for she knew her heart could not take it. Knowing it was empty was one thing but seeing it made the reality that much heavier.  She lay there looking away, letting denial seek a way into her mind. 

The cold.

“This isn’t happening,” she said to to herself for no one was there to hear her just the stillness of the night.

She laid there staring at her cell phone on the gray and white marble top of her night stand. She was hoping it would ring. That he would call and take away the quiet, the stillness, the cold. The reality.

As she hoped, she knew in her heart that he would not. The phone would become a reminder of her loneliness. How long was she going to stare? How long would she allow hope to linger, to deny the reality? How long would she be cold?

She wondered if he felt the cold.

As she lay there staring at it, staring into the darkness of the room, she began to become uncomfortable with her position, with herself. She adjusted her pillow, the down comforter, her legs yet she could not solve the discomfort.

Tears began to slide gently down her cheeks, first the left one then the right. Her tears were not cold but warm and gentle. They brought with them the pain, the heartbreak and the reality that the cold she felt on the other side of the bed was never going away.

How many nights would she endure this sense of loss? 

Would life throw her a switch one day and simply make the cold go away? 

Is it possible?

To lose love after so long, so many years and now to endure such pain would it be possible to ever feel warmth again? To ever not cry herself to sleep she wondered. She didn’t want to wipe the tears away for they represented the truth and she needed to let hope diminish…vanish so she could settle into her new existence, alone.

“I love you,” he said.

Three simple words that when said are the most powerful words spoken to an individual. But when they are taken away they create the most devastating aftermath. 

Loss. 

Cold.

Her mother would call her in the morning to check on her as would others. They would all mean well. She would hesitate to answer the phone each time. It is as if she desired to bask in her heartache, her loneliness. As if she didn’t want them to take it away.

But she did. 

They simply lacked the ability do it or the understanding on how. Or was it that she was unwilling?  The truth is they could not give her what she needed…what she wanted so badly.

They would ask how she was holding up.

“Fine,” she would answer.

They would sense that her words were not authentic. They would offer words of encouragement and motivation to get out of bed, shower, dress and eat. The basics she was no longer willing to do.

They would tell her that this is not what he would want for her. That she needed to move on… move on out of her grief. She hated that almost as much as the reality that she was now alone.

One does not move on from the cold she thought. They learn to move through it if they are to survive.

Will she survive?

There is a difference. 

They just don’t understand. 

She was crying harder now she realized. 

How much crying could one person do?

Still looking at her phone, an acceptance began to come over her that he wasn’t going to call. As much as she wanted him to, he was unable. Ever. It was all real. Not a dream. Not a nightmare. No matter how many times she prayed, hoped and begged to all the powers of the universe that it all be a mistake nothing would change.

She shivered and rolled over and looked at his side of the bed. She reached her arm out under the covers to see if she could sense his warmth. It wasn’t there. The white sheets, pillows and comforter engulfed his side like a blanket of snow. 

“Why?” She whispered into the night.

“Why?”

She squeezed her eyes tight releasing the gates of the dam. Tears came in a flood causing her body to shake. And he wasn’t there to hold her, quiet her.

“Why?”she whispered again.

She remembers the last time he spoke to her. 

If only she had known.

He had woken early to head to the airport for another business trip.

As he was leaving, he bent to kiss her on the forehead.

“I love you,” he said gently as he did it.

She remembers stirring and smiling. His kiss was warm. His words were warmer.

“Love you, too,” she said as she snuggled back into bed. She was comfortable. She was warm and all nestled in.

If only she had known she thinks. She would have jumped out of bed. Held him. Held him back.

But he left.

He unknowingly left her.

He was never coming back.

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