I hear you. The words are blurred, sentences broken, but I’m still able to put the tattered sounds together.
At lunch you read me my favorite novel. I know by the names of the characters: Barkley, Henry. I feel the warmth of your hand on mine when you get to the part where the two escape on a boat to Switzerland in the middle of the night. I can tell by the swift change in your voice, and tight clench of your hand, that the part where they almost get caught is near. Gently, you brush your fingers against my arm when they make it to safety, able to start their lives together. But you end it there. I hear the clap of the book fold. You never read all the way to the end.
You grab my hands between yours and tell me that when I wake up, you and I will start our lives together. You say we’ll have our own adventures.
I respond, telling you we’ll be going home soon. Not to worry, everything will be like it once was. You never hear me. No matter how loud I scream – you never hear me. I feel your tears roll onto my face, down my cheeks, and into my mouth. I taste the salt from your body, and wonder if I’ll ever taste anything more of you ever again.
At night you sing to me. You rest your head beside mine singing the lyrics of Bobby McGee softly into my ear, telling me ‘you’d trade all of your tomorrows for one single yesterday’. We sing the chorus together, like we always do. You kiss my forehead; brushing your fingers through my hair, putting me to sleep, like you’ve done every night since we’ve been together.
The other night I dreamt you thought I was dead. You placed me in a dark wooden coffin and lowered me into the ground. I shouted, trying to get your attention. Trying to tell you I wasn’t dead. “I’m ready to go home,” I said, begging you to get me out of there, banging my fists against the inside of the cold, dark casket. But you still couldn’t hear me and continued lowering me into the pit of the earth.
I could hear people crying, mourning over me. “I’m not dead,” I repeated, hollering until my voice cracked.
I heard you speak about the time we drove out west. How you found my collecting a magnet from each town we visited irritating. But how now those magnets hold proof to my existence and our time together, and how you are sorry, so sorry for ever being irritated in the first place.
I howled, my throat raw, telling you everything’s okay, that I’m nowhere near dead.
And then all I heard were the thumps of dirt piling up on top of me, and still I kept screaming for you, until finally, I heard nothing.