Your body turns over, sloshes from one side of the bed to the other. Eyes that should fall heavy sit light and alert.
You notice everything—the way the flannel sheet catches the dry skin of your big toes and tugs, pulling you. You hear the heater light and click on. Your shirt bunches beneath your chest so that it feels as though you are laying on smooth river stones.
Jealous, you listen to the steady breath of sleep lying next to you. Breaths that deepen and fill the chest in a way your envious body never could.
You nudge him with your knee out of spite.
As one hour becomes two, then three, the panic sets in. You feel it first in your abdomen and it moves up your body until it catches in your throat as a muffled scream.
Breathe. You measure your breaths. It becomes a chore as your lungs fill with the stifling air of insomnia.
You check the time, something your doctor specifically told you not to do. It is 2:00 a.m. Four more hours until you have to get up. Ten and half more hours until you can turn around and crawl back into your bed for recovery. Twenty hours until you start all over.
And beside you, he lies perfectly motionless, the weight of his body pressing into the mattress, drawing you towards him. You touch the skin of his back.
“What can I do to help?” he asks.
Beside you sit a stack of books, packets of chamomile and lavender tea. You’ve already taken 2 tabs of Benadryl. Melatonin. Elavil. Gabapentin. All sedatives. All meant to knock you out. All swimming in your blood stream contributing nothing.
Eventually, hours into the night, you drift into a fitful sleep filled with anxious dreams.
Last night you dreamt you had cancer. The doctor opened your leg and the skin beneath your tongue to remove it. You woke up feeling for the scars on your thigh, running your tongue over where the stitches should have been.
And your alarm is going off. And your head feels like it is full of cotton and your throat is sore. You begin the countdown to the next night.
It takes you until 5:00 p.m. to feel alive. But you realize the cycle is starting again. Your skin itches, heart races, breathing increases as you prepare to go in for battle.