Trembling and gasping for breath, he sat up straight in the oversize king bed. Drenched in sweat, he looked wildly at the digital clock on the bedside table: 4:12 a.m.
The space next to him, the one that should have been filled, remained empty.
He threw off the covers and almost ran to
Tommy’s room. The 7-year-old boy was sound asleep,
He went next to Helen’s room. She, too, was asleep, and he touched her cheek. She moved slightly but didn’t wake.
As he reached Sophie’s room, he was breathing rapidly, almost out of breath, almost hyperventilating. Sophie was asleep.
The last room was 12-year-old Hank’s. He hurried to the bed. Hank, too, was asleep. He lightly touched the boy’s arm, but he didn’t stir.
He was still sweating. He carefully and quietly shut the door to Hank’s room, then leaned against the wall, eyes closed and breathing deeply. They’re all right. They’re okay. It was a bad dream. Another bad dream. But what was the dream? I can’t even remember it. What is happening to me?
He felt the panic rising again. Closing his eyes, he did what the psychologist had said to do. Focus on controlling your breathing. It’s a little thing, but it’s important to get some control, even over a little thing. Gradually calm it down.
He felt foolish. He wanted to cry, but couldn’t.
His breathing under control, and knowing sleep was as hopeless as so many other nights, he walked to the kitchen and fixed coffee. Cup in hand, he walked to the living room. Standing at the large window, he looked out over the back garden, packed in snow, watching the few lights on in the distance.
He was still standing, and watching, as daylight began to stream upward from the night, with the prospect of another cold winter day ahead.
Got to get them up for school.
It’s just a fragment of a story, one I’m still playing with.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.