VITERBO UNIVERSITY | SPRING 2014 | VOLUME 78

TOUCHSTONE

LITERATURE

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Lindsay Knudtson

You don’t remember anything. I shouldn’t even waste my time asking. At three o’clock in the morning, an empty spot beside me, I remember driving home through the blizzard feeling absolutely lost and utterly alone, even though you were sitting there, in the passenger seat, trying to calm my nerves. All I really wanted was for you to shut up. But I know you don’t remember any of it. I could barely see through the snow. And it was so cold.

Your spot is empty and the bed is cold. I blindly grab for the blankets that always seem to make their way to your side. I pull them up to my chin. I pull them up over my head and bury myself, drowning in a sea of cheap flannel and goose down. You hardly sleep anymore. It’s not your fault that I am angry, but I dreamed that stupid dream again, the one that wakes me up, leaves me a mess. You put your hand on my shoulder, asked if I wanted some warm milk or a simple cup of tea. I shrugged you off. I told you to leave me alone. I told you to let me sleep. I feel like I’m suffocating in the warmness of my own breath. I pull the blankets off my face.

I don’t hear you, but even though you are not next to me, I know you are home. You don’t leave very often. I feel sorry, sorry for being so angry. What is it about the dark that stirs up so many memories, so much pain? I have too many questions, and I wish you could just remember. I slowly reach my toes out from under the blankets; the air is icy and I pull them back. I remember that I wanted you to shut up, but you just wouldn’t. You wouldn’t let it go. You kept resting your left hand on my thigh, like everything was fine. You wanted it to be fine, I know you did. I could hear it in your voice. You kept asking if I wanted you to drive, but all I did was crank up the heat, turn on the radio, and try to drown out the sound of your voice.

It’s almost four. My eyes feel heavy and my mind, full. Your spot is still empty, even the creases in the pillow are long gone. I don’t even know why I’m still here. What are we even doing? I mean, I know how we got here but we can’t even talk about it. You give me that blank look when I sometimes, naively, ask just to see if maybe you do, even though I know you won’t remember. I am sick of the night. I am sick of thinking, and I think maybe night is made just for thinking. Isn’t that why you trade hope of sleep for Stephen King, or John Grisham?

I’m not sure what I feel. Sometimes I think it’s guilt. Sometimes I think it’s fear. Sometimes I think it’s plain stupidity. The only thing I know for sure is that I never should have made you go to that party. We both heard the weather advisory, and I knew you had never been fond of the Duncans. I don’t think anyone really was, but they lived in that gorgeous house up on the hill. I know you remember that, at least. I always wanted to be part of their scene. I regret blowing half your pay-check on the four-inch Jimmy Choo’s I simply couldn’t live without. I regret wearing them that night. I should have listened to the weather channel. Instead, I had to crank the heat because my feet were soaking wet and freezing cold. My right foot kept slipping off the gas pedal and you just kept talking. My face was burning. Every time you touched my thigh my teeth would clench tighter.

I roll onto my stomach, give my pillow a couple of good punches. It doesn’t help. I hear your foot-steps in the kitchen. I hear the clink of glass. Sometimes I feel responsible for your drinking, drinking like this anyway, at four o’clock in the morning. I stretch my arm out in an attempt to compensate for the emptiness. I change my mind, grab your pillow instead, and tuck it next to me. It feels almost comforting. I remember driving that night. Driving, fighting the snow. It might have been beautiful, under different circumstances, but my face was burning and I was trying to bite my tongue, and every time you spoke I thought I might vomit.

Why did I make you go to that party? When I first saw you in the guest bedroom I had thought you were just looking for the bathroom. I’d lost track of you hours before, so I was wandering the carpeted halls, looking for you. Maybe if the hallway wasn’t carpeted you would have heard me coming and I never would have known.

I shake my head and roll onto my back again. I can feel the pillow pressed into my right side. I don’t think anyone ever deserves it, but did I deserve it? Just a little bit? I spent half your pay-check on shoes. I kept telling you that you weren’t good enough, even though you were doing everything you could. I was acting like a spoiled brat. I think that maybe it’s not guilt or fear or stupidity that I feel. I think that I was just a jerk. Or maybe my emotions are just growing confused; it’s almost four-thirty and I can barely sleep anymore. I always have that stupid dream. I can’t get her face out my head. You always try to comfort me when I wake up, but that dream means nothing to you. You don’t remember her.

I wish you would have heard me coming down the hall that night at the Duncans. As I got closer to the room it looked like you were buttoning your shirt, but your back was facing me and that didn’t make any sense. I walked in, just as you were turning around. Your hair was disheveled, your belt was undone, and she was bending down to pick up her shoes. She looked up, eyes wide. I had never seen her before. I don’t think you had either, before that night anyway. I looked at her. I looked at you. I opened my mouth only to close it, turn around, and march out of the room. Did she know you were married? None of it made sense but I knew what I had seen. I saw the look on her face. I didn’t bother excusing myself from the party; I grabbed my coat and walked straight out the door. It must have snowed at least four inches by then and I noticed you chasing after me.

I really am sorry that you don’t sleep like you should, even though sometimes my sorrow gets clouded by anger. I know your reasons are different than mine. You don’t understand what happened and I am dying to forget, choking on my dreams in the wee hours of the morning. You would probably like it if I accepted a glass of warm milk or a cup of tea, if I didn’t always insist that you leave me alone. I don’t actually want to be alone. I pull the pillow away from my side and shove it back up to the head of the bed. Why can’t you just remember? The snow was blinding and it was so cold. I wanted you to shut up so I turned on the radio. My foot kept sliding off the pedal, but I thought that maybe, if I drove just a little faster, that I could relax my jaw and loosen my grasp on the steering wheel. So I drove faster. I could barely see through the snow. I could barely see the headlights coming towards us.

I remember standing in the snow, in my ruined Jimmy Choo’s, next to the car. The front end, crumpled like a tin can and you, hanging half-way out the shattered window. I had one arm around you and one hand holding the phone, pleading for help. We spent days in the hospital; I was sure that you were going to die.

The nights are hard, but I am glad you are still here. I am not sure what I have would have done. Maybe I should just give up on sleep. I think too much at night. Maybe I should learn to quit thinking. Maybe we should start talking again, but I know you don’t remember her, or the accident. Maybe I should both take up reading too. I’ll take Stephen King and you can stick with John Grisham. Maybe someday I will finally be able to tell you the things that you don’t remember.