in defiance of the coming autumn

“i feel restless,” i tell him, after pacing the house and finally entering his office. there must be something in my voice, or he knows from clues i’d given subconsciously earlier in the day, because he responds without hesitation.

“come with me,” he says as he stands, firm yet gentle. i follow him skiddishly to the bedroom where he tells me to turn off the light i had been reading by, then lay down. i do so, tittering that my phone has died, thinking that we’ll watch how it’s made for its usually soothing effect on both of us.

but he shushes me, taking my glasses to put on the nightstand, and folds me into his arms. we lay there in the dark, together, as he strokes my hair. i think, there is no one else that could love me so much or understand me so well. i am taken by his patience and empathy in this moment. we all have doubts about our partners at times, and he and i have waged private wars against each other in the years we have lived together. but in this moment— there is no doubt. i wonder how there ever could have been, what could have ever instigated those wars.

“i don’t know why i’m panicking.”

“i know. i don’t know, either. but you will be okay,” he tells me in an even and patient tone. we lapse back into silence and listen to the nighttime sounds of our neighborhood.

we live in a suburb, near the airport, and usually the night is filled with the sound of traffic. cars bustling on the street outside our bedroom window, with an eclectic mix of music booming and fading as they pass. there is the steady sound of wheels on pavement on the distant, busier roads. there are dogs barking. there are airplanes that roar overhead. through it all, the high-pitched electric sound of insects.

but in this moment, it’s just the trembling and sporadic breaths i’m taking and the cricketsong. he lays his hand on my heart, i know to feel how quickly it’s beating. i listen to his steady breath and my own shaking one; sometimes shallow, sometimes deep. as the crickets sing in defiance of the coming autumn, i notice that my breath now mirrors his. even, strong. i wonder when that happened, how much time has passed to make it so.

i am certain that he is and always will be my person. i feel small tears go down my cheeks.

outside, breaking the unusual quiet, a horn honks in the distance. it doesn’t blare in elongated anger.

it is a short and flat sound instead.

i can’t help it. i burst into laughter, tears streaming. i laugh harder when i sense he is stunned by this abrupt change; he must be wondering if i need to be committed for these wild mood swings. but he knows me and my humor and soon he joins me.

when the laughter passes and we are calm, i tell him, mournfully, “i don’t want to die. i don’t want to die, and i don’t want you to die, or my mom, or my dad, or my oma, or my family.” this fear plagued and paralyzed me with existentialism as a six-year-old and all ages since. i torture myself like this, mourning the future loss of loved ones that are still living, breathing. he’s heard this before, and so doesn’t say anything. i don’t want him to, and i feel better simply having told him this fear again.

he knows me. he holds me until the panic has eased its clutch on my heart.


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