by Penny Freeman
1am: Unable to concentrate, I close my book, turn out my lamp, and settle in for sleep. Dallas turns down the volume on the BBC documentary he is watching on Channel 8.2, the marvels of metal. Doesn't bother me, as his lamp does not. I'm used to it, and I'd rather have him here, in bed, than snoring in his office chair, sitting up in front of his computer.
2:20am: Dallas starts making grunts and other inarticulate noises at the TV. Groggy and put out, I huff, roll over, and pull a pillow over my head. I spare him the tongue lashing as I'm too asleep to bother. It's just a soft murmur now and again. He should get the hint. He doesn't. The intermittent babbling continues as I fade in and out of consciousness. I think, if you're going to talk to the TV, at least take it in the other room. PBS has moved on to the wonders of plastics.
2:40am: The babbling has increased, but now his soft voice is sweetly holding a conversation in nonsensical words. Wondering if he's a lunatic, I wake up enough to decide he's actually asleep. The TV and glasses need to go off and the CPAP on so he can settle down into restful slumber. Getting up and walking around the bed don't quite wake me up, but his glassy-eyed stare does.
Pale and clammy, Dallas is flat on the bed, staring up at me and babbling. Drenched through, he looks like he stepped into the shower in his pajamas, then came to bed. His feet are cool—too cool—as are his hands and face. But, it's not the worst I've seen him. The worst I've seen him, he was as cold as death. I had to check his breathing to make sure he wasn't. That time, I couldn't wake him up with shaking and slapping. I mean, really slapping his face, like you see in movies. That time, two of my sons were there when my panic set it. It was his second ride to the ER in an ambulance.
"You're in trouble, aren't you?" I say softly. It's not a question, more like me trying to calm myself with the sound of my own voice.