by Robin Crawford
She woke up cold and then hot. She was naked and sweating underneath the bed sheet. Her mouth was cotton-dry. A headache corkscrewed into the base of her skull. The room, lit by a slit of light through the curtains, was unfamiliar.
She felt movement on the mattress next to her and she turned her head.
“Oh, my God,” she thought, “what did I do last night? Who’s this one? Was I at a party, or was it a bar?”
She sat up and rubbed her neck. She wished she were home. She wished she knew where her clothes were. She began to cry.
The man next to her stirred. She felt his fingertips at the small of her back.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
She shook her head. She sniffled, unable to speak.
He slid out of bed. He returned a moment later with a bathrobe and placed it across her shoulders. It was soft—a woman’s robe—and it made her cry more.
“Come on,” he said. He helped her slip her arms into the sleeves and then eased her off the bed. She wanted to ask his name, but she was embarrassed. And she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
He led her to the bathroom, turned on the light and left, closing the door behind him. After using the toilet, she washed her hands and looked into the mirror over the sink.
He had returned and was standing behind her with a glass of water. She didn’t recognize either reflection.
He opened his hand and she scooped up the aspirin. The water was what she wanted, needed. It refreshed her. She asked for more. She didn’t notice the few minutes it took for him to return with another full glass. It was as if no time had passed.
She drank while he ran warm water in the sink, wet a washcloth, and lathered soap into it. He washed her face. She let him wash her face. It felt odd, but it felt familiar.
She closed her eyes and saw the pink porcelain and brass fixtures in the bathroom of her childhood home. She smelled the cloud of lavender that had always surrounded her mother. Her toes grabbed for the edge of the wooden step stool that made her taller.
He dabbed her face with a dry towel and then wrapped her fingers around a toothbrush.
“You fell asleep last night before you brushed your teeth,” he said. “Might as well do it now.”
She brushed and rinsed, then drank some more water. The headache was going away.
She felt warm, only warm. Not cold and hot at the same time.
They were in the bedroom again. She hadn’t noticed the time it took to get there, as if mere thought had moved them down the hall. He slipped the bathrobe off of her and pulled a nightgown over her head. He put his arms around her.
“I love you, honey,” he said.
She knew he did. But she didn’t know him. She hugged him back, and loved him back, because he had dressed her, and washed her face, and given her water. And now she felt better. She lay down in the bed and turned on her side. He got in next to her, pressed his body against her back and curled his arm around her.
She took his wrist in her hand and pulled him closer. She no longer felt like crying. She was not afraid to ask now, because he’d been so nice.
“Who are you?” she said.
He said a name she didn’t know, and then he said, “I miss you, honey.”
She fell asleep in the arms of the man she’d married twenty-eight years ago, and woke with her hair still damp with his tears.