It’s late and I’m angry. We’ve argued and it’s stupid and he’s been unfair and I’ve cried and I’m sure he’s wrong. I roll away, face the wall, unwilling to acknowledge there’s a body on the other side of the bed; determine to spend the whole night without touching him.
I covet the touch of his skin.
But I box that away. Because I’m too mad and too frustrated and touch would insinuate reconciliation and I have no intentions of that until morning. I will ignore him until I’ve slept off my indignation.
I lay there, steaming, stubborn when the jerking begins, small and rhythmic. I wait, listen. Maybe it will pass quickly, on its on. It doesn’t. The tiny seizings continue like little haunted hiccups, and it’s so much easier to have compassion on him now, now that he’s not fighting me, but an enemy far in the past, thousands of miles away.
I reach back with one arm, still unwilling to commit to intimacy but equally unwilling to leave him in his unconscious war. Gently, I stroke his spine, oh so carefully, until I feel the small start, hear the faint intake of air that means he’s aware again, that’s he’s free from the demons of his past.
And then I face the wall again, still just hurt enough to resist embracing him, still just sure enough I was right.
But mere seconds pass before he’s there again, in the war. And I don’t know what tortures him tonight, if it’s the bullet whizzing past his ear or cleaning the remains of the children off of vehicles, but he is there and he’s stuck and my heart aches for him.
So I roll over. Even though he won’t remember this tomorrow. Even though he’s still wrong. Even though I’m still hurt. And I start the oh-too-familiar ritual of timidly rubbing the nightmare out of his back. I’m slow, calculated, careful not to wake him too suddenly.
I rub long past the gasp that means he’s escaped again. I rub until I’m sure he’s found peace. That he’s well past the edge of unconsciousness that haunts him, into a cycle that will afford him some rest.
Because mercy is easier when the enemy is wounded. And not all wounds are visible in the light of day.
And because the books are right, love is not always a feeling. Love is an action.
So I commit to it. And settle in next to him.
image by pelt69