The Cold Side

By: Gary Gray

I could hear her moving through the bedroom, though it was difficult to see. She drew the curtains closed and the bright lights refracting from the street below became muted in the darkness. I stared at the ceiling as my eyes adjusted. As the blurry shapes around the darkened room took form I could hear her whispering something, a low and angry voice, unintelligible. I fluffed my pillow, turning it over to find the cold side.

– So, you think you’re going to leave me?

I didn’t answer. Having discussed the issue in heated argument throughout the evening, I was emotionally drained and wanted desperately to sleep. Maybe, I thought, she would come to bed and we could sleep it away. Sleeping away my troubles. I’ve been sleeping away my troubles for many years now. Still, I knew in my soul that this trouble wasn’t going away with a nights sleep. In truth, I dreaded waking up in the morning. It would start all over again.

– We’ve been arguing all evening, can I get some sleep? We’ll talk more tomorrow.

– I’ll take you for everything you’ve got.

A threat. I’ve heard this threat before. It usually came at 3AM in the morning. Tonight was no different. Hours of arguments, over God-knows-what, and always dragging on into the wee hours of the night. I’m amazed the neighbors haven’t complained.

– You can go back to your mother, you momma’s boy.

– Why do you always drag my mother into our arguments?

She hated my mother. Mom always treated her kindly, respectfully, but there was never closeness between them. Mom always kept to a distance, seeming to know something but pretending to know nothing.

– Your fucking kids can’t stand me. What have I ever done to them?

Grunting, she ground her elbow into my ribs as she climbed into bed. I scooted further to the side. It didn’t help. She followed, flopping her body closer, nudging her elbow deeper into my side, as if I were in the way. I would be in the way no matter where I laid.

– You wanna give me some room?

– I’m all the way over, any further and I’ll fall off the bed.

I have never understood her problem with my children. Her son was a fixture at our home. Seems that every little thing that came up, he was there asking for something. “Can I borrow money, can I borrow your tools, can I borrow your car, can you watch the kids, can you pay for my traffic ticket”…always something. I always helped; he never paid a penny back. Nothing was ever returned. I never complained.

– You can have everything. I don’t care any more. I just want to sleep.

She turned her body and ground her knee into my thigh.

– Maybe I should go to a hotel; you’re not going to let this rest are you?

– So where do you think you’ll go? I’ll find you, I always do.

The last time we argued, I left the house and spent the night at a hotel. I didn’t tell her where I was going, she tracked me down anyway. Calling every hotel in town until she found the one where I was hiding. The phone began its ringing at 1:30 in the morning and she wouldn’t stop until I answered it.

– When you come back, like you always do, the doors will be locked. All your shit will be ripped to shreds and on the lawn.

Another threat. Every time we argue she threatens me with something. I threw the covers back and crawled out of the bed. It was 3:30 AM, we’d been arguing since noon the previous day. I closed the bedroom door behind me as I walked to the kitchen. I could hear her through the wall, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. As I stood at the kitchen counter, I noticed her prescription medication bottles were neatly arranged on the counter. I counted them…twelve in total. Pain killers mostly, some are prescription narcotics; others are for her psychiatric disorders. She managed to convince her doctor and her psychiatrist that she needed them to survive. They dole them out with few questions. How a person could take so many drugs and continue to function was beyond me. I’m certain it was contributing to the constant arguing, her rage growing with each passing day, her anger at me, my family, her friends-she had no friends left, all had long since abandoned relationships with her. I remember the first psychotic medications she took, years ago. Bi-polar disorder was the first diagnosis. Some type of Acid thing, I can’t recall the name. She hallucinated for two days, talking to the paintings on the walls, crawling around on her hands and knees. She hated me then just as she does now, it was my fault then just as it is now. I’m the one that asked for help. The police forced her to the hospital where she was committed to the psychiatric ward for diagnosis. I visited her every day, took her blankets and pillows from home, something familiar to ease the trauma.

– She has a chemical imbalance in her brain. – he said.

All Psychiatrists say the same thing. They aren’t able to explain what is wrong with her, much less cure it. It’s a common practice to pontificate about some “best guess” diagnosis. Bi-polar disorder, multiple-personality disorder, traumatic stress disorder, blah, blah, blah…everything has a name. Nothing can cure it. They give out medications instead. There are twelve plastic bottles lined up on the counter. Years of psychiatrists and countless medications; she’s not getting better. I can’t live like this.

– Turn the fucking lights off and be quiet. You’re making too much noise. I’m trying to sleep.

I sigh and chuckle to myself. Not loud enough to be heard though. It would set her off, best to keep it to myself. If she’s finally going to sleep, I should stay away from the bedroom. I’ll sleep on the couch. It will be better in the morning.

On the wall, the lights reflecting from the street below are luminescent, exposing the picture frames and knick-knack shelves. Photos of her children stare back at me through the foggy faint darkness. There are no photos of my kids though. Each time I put one out, it gets replaced. I have a box in the closet where they are kept. I wonder if she will shred them and throw them on the lawn too. I hate sofa pillows. They are so uncomfortable. This tiny blanket isn’t very warm.

– If you’re going to sleep on the couch and not with me, I’m going to sit up and keep you awake.

She turns the light on; I shut my eyes trying hold out the sudden rush of light. She sits in the leather recliner and turns the television on. I look at the clock; it’s 3:47 AM. She turns the volume up on the TV set. Jerry Springer. Two women fighting over a toothless redneck.

– I thought you were going to sleep?

– Fuck you. Nobody’s sleeping tonight.

– If you’re going to watch TV, I’m going back to the bedroom.

– Fuck you.

– Can you please turn the television down?

– Fuck you.

I turn the bedroom light off and crawl into bed. I can hear the fighting on the television through the wall. She turns the TV up louder. I lie in bed and stare at the wall, listening to the fighting on the television. She’s not going to let me sleep. I stare at the ceiling. The women on television are still fighting. She turns the television volume up again. The thunderous sound of Jerry Springer is reverberating through the neighborhood at 3:50 AM. I’m thinking the police will show up, knocking on the door at any moment.

At 4:00 AM, the television goes silent. Silence. I begin to doze – I’m so tired. I can hear the bedroom door open. I hear her walk to the side of the bed. My eyes are closed – I’m so tired.

– I’m going to let you sleep now.

My eyes opened as she slit my throat with a carving knife from the kitchen. I can’t speak. I see her face above mine. I feel the warm flow of blood around my neck as I lay motionless on the bed. The last thing I remember was hearing…

– Here, let me turn your pillow to the cold side for you.