NOTES FOR ANOTHER LIFE
He lay on the sofa in his clothes, the Seconals in his pocket. A handful of them in a clear plastic bottle off his grandfather's shelf. Upstairs a toilet flushed, a door snapped shut. He could hear the rain spanking the windows. It sounded distant, like little slaps through thick padding. Storm windows, storm doors, kept him safe. Fiberglass insulated the walls and roof, kept cold and heat out. Bolts dropped. The steady hum of air conditioning overrode natural sounds, the honking of car horns, the murmurings of bugs, the night's wings on the walls.
He was alone in the dark. No light glinted on the wall of trophies across the room. The television set was a black hole, denser than the other dark. He would sleep a little while, just until they were all asleep upstairs. It was all right to sleep a little. A trial run. He closed his eyes, his fingers tight against the plastic bottle in his pocket. He felt sure he could do it.
He awoke to hear the mantel clock in the living room chime three. The rain had stopped and the house was still, no thumping and bumping goblins about to bother him. He got up and went to the kitchen. The light inside the refrigerator didn't come on. That was when he realized the electricity was off. He poured a glass of milk in the dark, his finger inside the rim of the glass to tell himself when. He felt so efficient, competent to manage in the black quiet like he was doing.
He walked cautiously back into the family room, holding the glass of milk close to his chest, and found the sofa with his foot. He sat down and spilled the capsules into his hand. He felt them on his fingers. He pressed his full palm to his mouth, sucked them in, swallowing hard on the milk. It was so easy. Already he felt something like comfort.
Bliss awoke a few minutes before four, although she had to look at Bill's pocket watch to know for sure. The moment she awoke she knew the electric clock was wrong, its numbers glowing dully at two-thirty. The surge of power back into the house was what had caused her to lurch in her sleep and fling one arm out toward Bill's back.
She ran her fingers down his spine over the soft worn cloth of his pajamas. Touching him should make her feel all right, but it didn't. She waited a minute or two, listening to the house. All was quiet, and yet she felt restless, her nerves pinching slightly across her shoulders, her temples beginning to throb. She got up and went down the fall to Tom's room.
He was sleeping peacefully, his face toward her. He was truly better; these two difficult days with Karen in the house were proof of that. She was proud of him. She started back to bed and then paused in front of Kevin's room, remembering that she hadn't told him a proper good night. She did worry about him. More than she wanted Karen to know, more than she wanted to admit to herself, although she knew there was nothing she could do to prevent the problems he must face. Sometimes she wanted to hold him, though, proof of her constant care. She wanted to touch him when she knew he was most apt to draw back, on a night likd this when his parents were in the house and he was alone on a makeshift bed, separate from them in all the ways that mattered to him.
She turned and went down the hall, lifting her gown on the stairs, feet moving quickly now, as if she felt an urgency like a live current loose in the air. The family room was dark, trapped in the natural stillness of night, and yet she felt anxious, her chest suddenly clammy as she felt her way to the sofa like a blind woman. She put our her hand to find his shape, a foot uncovered, a hand loose. She touched a shoulder. Her hand skimmed his shirt sleeve, down to his elbow, over the cast to his fingers. He was so still, unyielding under her frantic touch. She lifted his hand into hers and felt a slick cold capsule drop into her palm. She was screaming when she reach for the light.