Today (yesterday, technically) was Ali's birthday. For the past 6 years, it's been a difficult day to say the least, but to try and turn it around and remember what I had, I thought I would post a short chapter that takes place shortly after our marriage. It's unedited as hell, but it's short. Let me know what you think.
There was a place, a place at the top of Ali's rib cage, just below her armpit. From years and years of leaning on my left hand while sitting up as a child, it now curved unnaturally. Unnatural, except for how it seemed to nestle perfectly against that place under Ali's torso. Like a key in a lock I had previously never known existed before drifting off to sleep next to her.
After the conversation of the day was done, after every screen, and every light bulb had been extinguished, I would lie awake sometimes and watch Ali's irises dream dance underneath her eyelids with the reassuring weight of her body on my left arm. I would wonder what was going on in her head, what was streaking between neuronal synapses in her brain. Was it images of me? Faces of some of those who called her names? Or was she turning in awe on a yellow brick road beneath Emerald spires?
Often, my own eyelids would drift halfway down before I would shake myself awake again. Although sleep was sweet now, it was over so quickly, and often not nearly as sweet as these quiet moments. Once or twice I caught myself flashing a chagrined smirk for no one as the extremely cheesy Aerosmith lyric "I don't wanna miss a thing" screeched through my brain. God, I had become a living power ballad. Inside, a 16-year-old version of me simultaneously curled up in an embarrassed fetal position, and danced for joy.
Eventually, I would allow myself to close my eyes and block out the early morning glow drifting in from our bedroom’s singular, large window. The afterimages of the curtains blowing on a breeze that clung to traces of the sea continued to animate in my mind’s eye. The occasional seagull would shriek somewhere not too far away, punctuating the silence in between Ali's breaths. I listened more closely, and waited to see if her respiration would do that thing where it somehow fell into sync with my own. Maybe it was the other way around, I don't know. More often than not, it seemed like even our heartbeats would fall into a rhythm together. One of those cool party tricks you can't show anyone.
Against my will, I could feel my consciousness slipping. I often fought off falling asleep tooth and nail, mostly just as a kind of game. I never won, not once. Eventually, every time dreams would creep in before I was even fully gone. In the middle of thinking about the day's events, images would come to life unbidden. People, places, things. Dragons, sunny days, and Ali trying on ridiculous hats that belonged in the movie Dune. I would then slip completely down into the depths of dreams, usually not remembering anything else for hours.
I would return to a state of wakefulness hours later, sometimes. More often than not it would take me a few seconds to regain comprehension, wondering what had awoken me. In answer, Ali would finish stirring, throwing an arm around me, or shifting onto her back. Comprehension would dawn on me, something the sun had already accomplished several hours before. My eyes would close again, and I would drift off on a high of contentedness. Feeling safe, warm, and with nowhere to be for many hours more.
I was home.