March 11, 2010 by The Citron Review
by Joe Callahan
He uncapped a bottle of water and took a sip while lying in bed. “You see that?” he said, somewhat out of breath. “That’s hard. Lying down and drinking like that at the same time. That’s hard to do.” He laughed at himself. “And not even a drop on the chin.” He screwed back on the cap and held out the bottle to her. “You want a sip? It’s cold.”
Everything except the top of her head was buried beneath the covers and her voice was muffled. “Will you turn off your light?” she said.
He shrugged and opened the bottle again. He held the bottle away from his face, arm fully extended, and poured a stream of water into his open mouth. The water filling his mouth made a hollow, empty sound that reverberated through his head; it pleased him, though a bit splashed onto his cheek and a thin runnel of cool water ran down his face and into the crease between his shoulder and neck.
He swallowed deeply and laughed again. “I just have to take out the garbage and I’ll be right up,” he said. He wondered, mopping some of the water off his neck with the corner of his pillowcase, why he felt like he was pleading with her.
“The light?” she said. “Please?”
He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “Sure.” He got out of bed and took another sip of water before screwing on the cap and leaving the room.
From the hallway, he heard her yell, “The light?”
He turned and went back into the bedroom. “Sorry,” he said, stooping to switch off the lamp on his end table. “Forgot.”
His eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the dark when, from within the blackness, he heard her say, “You always forget me.”
He sighed. “Don’t generalize,” he said.
“Okay,” she said. “Then you never remember me.” Her voice was suddenly clear, as if she had removed her head from beneath the blankets, though he hadn’t heard the rustling of fabric.
“Don’t generalize in the negative either,” he said.
She sighed and his eyes adjusted to the darkness in time to see her roll over onto her other side, facing away from him.
He turned to leave but lingered in the doorway. “I’ll be right up,” he said, pleading again for some reason.
She didn’t say anything, and for a few moments, he stood staring at her, her form, the shape her body made under the covers. He noticed how before, when they were lying next to one another, he’d been lying on top of the covers, leaving his side of the bed slightly rumpled though mostly intact, but she’d been buried beneath the covers, consumed by them. He had a profound feeling that all of this was symbolic of something, though he wasn’t sure of what. He tried to ponder the idea, but the thread of it slipped away from him and he could no longer concentrate. He left the room and shut the door behind him.
Downstairs, in the kitchen, the cat was waiting for him by her dish, waiting to be fed, and outside, on the back porch, a few bags of trash were huddled together in the cold, like a group of old men, conferring. He went into the living room, grabbed the remote, and sat down to watch TV for a bit.
Joe Callahan is a writer, musician, and stay-at-home father from rural Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He is currently at work on a novel and an album of original music.