While You Were Sleeping


A summer storm was on the way. I sat under an open window in my bedroom and let the night air wash over my bare shoulders. I could smell rain. When Joyce and I were first married, we used to sit underneath the one window in our tiny, studio apartment and breathe in the wet air from outside. Raindrops would make their way through the screen and we’d let them hit us. Something our mothers never allowed in their own homes. Growing up, my siblings and I made mad dashes throughout the house to shut every window at the first sight of a gray could. Leaving our window open and letting the rain hit us was our little, romantic act of rebellion. We would sit and talk about our days if the babies were asleep. If not, we’d sit, look into each other’s eyes, steal a kiss and then swiftly return to our never-ending parental duties. Sometimes we’d even make love, right there on the floor. Those were the precious moments of beginning. We’d been through so much but the weight of our actions, of our decisions hadn’t yet sunk in. We were still young, dumb and in love. God, I missed those days.

On this night, I sat alone. Joyce was asleep. We entertained our guests. They went home, hand in hand. Joyce popped her aspirin and went straight to bed, just like she said she would. From across the room, I watched her body rise and fall in its usual rhythm.

My cell phone lied on the carpet directly in front of me. Its black screen stared at me. A deep, dark well of possibilities, filled with the unknown, just waiting for me to reach out, to dive in, and swim freely.  

This wasn’t the plan. She gave me her number. I thought about using it but had decided against it. I was a married man, after all. A married man who despite the endless problems and lack of magical elixirs, loved his wife and didn’t want to hurt her. Hurt was a powerful thing. For a split second that turned into two, I thought about my own hurt. About how consistently I ignored it. I thought about the last argument. How “done” I was, how fed up, how I couldn’t stand the silence or the noise, the secrets or the truth. I was fed up with Joyce and her rejection, her constant victimization. The focus on her regret instead of my pain. And yet, I went from being fed up and over it to hosting another dinner party. The quicksand was swift. It always was.

I thought about Ava. About seeing her today and how quickly she eased my troubled mind. One smile. One wave. One brave middle finger. It was all my soul needed.

 “Fuck it,” I whispered into the night and picked up my phone.

Without overthinking, I wrote the first thing that came to mind. Wanted to see what it would be like to just say what I felt for once.

You looked good today.

My thumb loomed over the “send” button. I gazed up at Joyce’s body, then back down at my phone and my stomach decided now was a great time to join the circus. With a deep breath I pressed SEND. And waited. It was late. She probably wouldn’t reply tonight. If ever. I looked back up at Joyce as my stomach took its turn on the trapeze. Before I could take a breath to steady my nerves, the phone lit up. It seemed brighter than normal. My transgressions casting a shadow on the wall next to me. I cupped my left hand over the device while I turned the brightness down. She responded. A new message from “A”, all I could think to save her under as I never planned on actually doing this.

Thought I’d never hear from you.

Her message made me smile. I felt like she was sitting there with me, under an open window on a rainy, summer night.

Guess I’m full of surprises.

You were looking pretty fine yourself.

Why thank you, ma’am.

Don’t call me ma’am. It turns me on.

Haha. Noted.

Sorry, shouldn’t have told you that.

Your secret’s safe with me.

You’re up late.

Couldn’t sleep.

Penny for your thoughts.

A part of me wished I could tell her everything. I knew better though. She was a fantasy and would most likely stay that way. I’d keep my reality within this house and not kill the vibe, keep my response short and sweet.

Oh ya know…

I don’t. But I could guess. Haha.

Haha. I’m sure you could. I’ll have to keep them to myself for now.

For now.

Joyce moaned and stretched. Her body turned and faced me. I flipped my phone over to hide the light. My eyes narrowed to see if hers were wide, if I was caught red-handed in the midst of my sin. Three deep breaths later and there was no more movement. She was still asleep but I was now too shook to continue. Perhaps it was a sign to keep the conversation short and sweet. I concluded with a bit of flirtation.

Goodnight… ma’am.

Mm. Night.

I clicked my phone off, then hit the button on the side to make sure it required a passcode to get back in. It always did, but tonight I needed to make sure. My face relaxed and I realized I’d had a smile plastered there this entire time. The night air felt even better on my back. Smelled better than it felt. But it was late. It was late and I was growing increasingly fearful of my thoughts. I carried my phone with me to my side of the bed, placed it on my nightstand, face down, crawled into bed and slept next to my wife.