I awoke this morning with much of this short, short story running through my head, remnants of a dream. ~ Diane Winger
I open my eyes and stare at the closet door, disoriented for a moment, still shaking off the vague remnants of a dream already faded from memory. Blinking a few times, our bedroom seems to reconstruct before my eyes, everything finally snapping into place just as it should be.
What time is it? I roll over and frown at the clock display. 8:16. I never sleep this late. Why didn’t Byron wake me?
The house is utterly silent. “Honey?” I call, but there’s not a whisper of a response.
I move through my normal morning routine without thought. Now showered and dressed, I’m sipping hot coffee from a nearly-full pot left in the coffee maker and gazing out the back window, watching for birds to come to the feeders. I assume they must have visited earlier this morning, at an hour when I usually watch them flitting from one to the other, pecking at the seeds and arguing about their preference for millet versus sunflower seeds. There are no birds feeding at this hour.
Searching for a note from Byron, I find nothing. How unlike him. When I peer into the garage to see if his car is still here, my confusion increases. Both bays are empty.
Frowning, I search my memory for some explanation. I can’t recall any plans to take one of the cars in for an oil change or to rotate the tires. Besides, who would have driven the second car? I look out the living room window to see if a friend’s vehicle might be parked out front, but that’s not the answer.
I’ll just call him. But now I realize my purse isn’t where I always set it and another search of the house doesn’t yield my own phone.
I must be losing it. What am I forgetting? Okay, take it a step at a time. What did I do yesterday? When’s the last time I remember having my purse and phone?
Yesterday was Saturday. We went grocery shopping early in the morning because Byron had an 8:15 tee time. I drove across town to meet my sister and we enjoyed our walk along the river and lunch at our usual café. I’m sure I had my phone then, because I remember getting a text from Byron asking if I wanted to have dinner with the Nathrops on Thursday.
For the life of me, I can’t remember any specifics about my purse nor my phone once I drove home again. How many dozens of times have Linda and I enjoyed our little Saturday get-together? If there was nothing memorable about the drive home, why would I remember any particular details?
I shrug. My purse is probably in my car, so once Byron returns, all these mysteries will be solved. Meanwhile, it’s a beautiful, sunny morning and I don’t have any plans, so why not enjoy it? After jotting a note to Byron, I step outside and savor the smells of freshly-mowed lawns and fragrant flowers before setting off along the sidewalk toward a nearby bike path.
I can’t believe nobody else is out here on such a gorgeous day. What a treat to have the path to myself. All I hear is the crackle of the fine gravel with each of my footsteps. I stop and hold my breath a moment, listening. A gentle breeze ruffles the leaves of the cottonwood beside me, but other than that, there is total silence.
No traffic noise, no birds tweeting, no dogs barking. Nothing.
Thinking back, I try to remember seeing any cars in motion during my short jaunt to this path. I can’t remember seeing any, but again, who pays attention to such things unless something unusual happens?
“Life is but a dream. Row, row, row your boat…” The song fills my mind, multiple imaginary singers performing it in a round with the dream stanza always stronger than the other voices. That’s it. I dreamt that I awakened this morning, but this is still a dream. Soon I’ll wake up for real and have a good laugh with my husband when I describe all this to him.
She’ll never wake up.
I don’t actually hear someone state those words. I’m simply aware of them, as if they were part of my own, inner voice. For a moment, I consider arguing with myself. Not out loud, of course – inside my head as a private dialog. Instead, I nod in understanding.
She wouldn’t want to live like this. We talked about this many times.
The bike path has disappeared, as have the trees that grew beside it. I look upward, but the sky isn’t blue and there are no fluffy clouds floating above. This doesn’t disturb me.
For the first time since I thought I woke up in my own bed this morning, I hear an actual voice – a whisper. “Goodbye, sweetheart. I love you.”
I nod again and send Byron an answer to float in his mind. “I love you, too. Thank you. You’re making the right decision.”
The memories, if you can call them that, rush into my awareness. An oncoming truck swerving across the yellow line. My foot pressing the brake to the floor, my hands turning the wheel hard. The thunderous boom, a flash of white as my body slams forward. A few moments of fear evaporated away. No pain.
I’m ready. Turn it off.