Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

First Thing In The Morning

by Linda C. Wisniewski

The voice in her head starts to whisper, even before she realizes she is awake. Maybe it's the voice that woke her, reminding her not to be happy, setting her up for sadness.

It tells her that her older son, the one who was laid off six months ago, will never find a job. It says her younger son hates her, that she ruined him in fifth grade with her criticism. That friend she doesn't like anymore, the one who whines and never changes? If you drop her, the voice says, no one will be there for you, ever again.

Her breath is shallow. She pulls the covers up around her ears. The wind outside rattles the windows in their brittle old frames. She hunkers down beneath the comforter, presses her feet against her husband's bare legs. He pulls her close, wraps his arms around her breasts.

She talks to herself in her head. Be happy, be grateful. You have so much; you're healthy, your whole family is healthy. She mentally sings a line from a favorite hymn. Lift up your heart…Be not afraid…

The voice murmurs and she tells it things. She has answers, solutions she can put into practice. She will bake brownies for her younger son, send him a supportive letter. She will pray for her older son and send him reiki for the next interview. She will drop what she's doing the next time one of them calls. She will find a new friend at church, someone happy and satisfied with life, someone to lift her up.

Her husband kisses her neck and his soft beard is a comfort, familiar, recalling her to the here and now. She talks to him, tells him her fears, asks what he thinks. He tells her not to worry. Everything will be all right, he says, everything is all right. The boys are fine, we are fine.

You can't worry about it, he says, and she asks him how he can be that way. So calm, doesn't he care? Doesn't he get it? Can't he see how she suffers? That she cannot just stop it? He must be uncaring, unfeeling, a robot…a man. She is the one in the family who does the emotional work, the heavy lifting.

Don't work yourself up, he says. She cries. The tears spill onto his shoulder as she turns to face him. His hair and beard are gray in the early morning light. His eyes are gray blue and she remembers how blue they were twenty years ago when they first met.

The wind rattles the panes again and his arms reach around her, and she is in a safe place, so fortunate, so lucky to awaken here once more, in this new day.

Her husband places his warm hand between her legs. The voice speaks again, telling her to be sad and she presses her foot on its windpipe until it is silent.

Linda C. Wisniewski writes for a weekly newspaper in Bucks County, PA. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Quilter, Massage, the Rose and Thorn and the thirteenth Flash In the Pan. Her memoir, Off Kilter, was published in 2008 by Pearlsong Press. Visit her website at www.lindawis.com.

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