Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
We Never Talk About It
by Laurel Ollstein
He didn't move all night. Usually he flops around the bed like a fish. We play tug of war with certain choice pillows. Throw off blankets - put on sleeping bags. Turn off the fan, turn on the fan. Go to the bathroom. Take a pill. Get water. See what the noise is. Put our night shades on. We're more active as a couple at night, than during the day. We are not sound sleepers he and I. So when I woke up and realized he hadn't moved all night, I was afraid to touch him. We hadn't touched in a while. We were in the midst of one of our cold wars, where we sort of coexist.
But now I was lying there afraid to touch him. What if he were cold, and hard, and …. we never talk about death. Never. We have never in our ten years of marriage had that necessary conversation about what would you like done? Where would you like to be put? I think he's more afraid of it than I am. And I am. When I was young and first learned about death, I just decided that I wouldn't. I made up the rule that if I did a somersault into bed every night, I would never die. This totally relaxed me about the subject, absolutely certain that this would work. So for years I somersaulted into bed. I never told anyone why; my mother, friends who slept over. It was just my quirky way of getting into bed. And then one night many years after making this bargain, I was tired or maybe even drunk, and I forgot to somersault in. I woke panicked in the middle of the night. I'd known I'd blown it. I had had it in my hands, the power to be immortal. And I blew it. He gets overwhelmed by the infinity of a starry night. An endless field of purple wildflowers gives him a panic attack. So the thought of eternity, just ain't a topic for conversation.
I turned roughly in the bed to see if that would stir him. No movement. He would want a Jewish service. I know that. He prays quietly every night before bed. I don't think he knows I know. We've never discussed it.
The alarm goes off, his alarm - a clock radio. A moment of Santana plays. He grunts, gets out of bed and turns off the radio. I ask him how he slept. He mumbles something unintelligible without looking at me.
We get up, we dress, we go off to our daily lives. We never talk about it.
Laurel Ollstein lives in Culver City CA. She says, "I am a child of two therapists—therefore I write—otherwise I would be institutionalized. I teach playwrighting at Loyola Marymount University, and I work as a writer in Hollywood when someone will pay me to, and I am a playwright even when no one pays me."
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