The Gift (Day Ten)

Staying behind in the living room, Peter’s eyes skim the pages of the children’s Bible but in his head he is replaying every second of the conversation, his mind freezing over key moments, pausing, replaying, examining the scene from every angle he can find. At several points he thinks to get up and check on Alana but something continually tells him not to go. He would not know what to say; he would only make it worse. No, it’s better by far to stay and leave things be, rather than intervene and send everything further and further away from the realms of resolution…

Only, as he sits there, his mind begins to replay other times like these, times when Alana has left and he has not followed, times when, seeking to salvage things, he has done nothing, and those times all end the same way: with the very thing he has tried to avoid rearing its head in spite of all his good intentions.

And so, after what may have been minutes, maybe hours, of staring at the same page of the book, he picks himself up and walks into the room. Alana is in bed, lying on her side facing the wall, but her lamp is still on. He cannot see if she is sleeping or awake, and so he slips silently into the bed beside her and rests his arms around her waist. She does not move them away, but shifts slightly in response, as if to show that she is awake or has just woken.

“I’m sorry,” he says, after a time.

“You should have known,” she replies.

“You’re right,” he says. “I was an idiot.”

Alana turns over to face him and, in the half-light of the bedside lamp, he can see the vague gloss of tears on her cheeks. For a time they lie there, neither making any noise, until Alana’s body begins to shake and he holds her, everything in him wanting to silence the quivering in her body but seemingly powerless to do so. He finds himself saying, “Ssshhhh,” as if to make her still, but the shaking continues and so he continues to wait, saying nothing, until finally her body slows down its shaking and is still.

For a long, long time he does not move but also does not sleep. His head remains full of words he would like to say to her and with anticipation of her responses to him; though she is now still in her body, in his mind she is constantly moving, throwing off his best attempts, pushing away every answer, every word he would say to her, and his mind rotates in anxious, aborted solutions and mute, circular arguments.

Sometimes he fancies he is asleep, and sometimes perhaps he is, for after a time he finds he is telling her the story again of Hannah and Elkanah, only this time he is telling her the story’s conclusion: the story of Hannah in the temple, praying frantically, and Eli the priest watching her lips move and her body gyrate while no words come out; and Alana is laughing at the comedy of the story and at Eli’s insistence that Hannah stop making such a drunken show of herself. I’d get drunk if I was Hannah, she says. But you are Hannah, he says. And she smiles and says, Really? as though this were the nicest thing he has ever said. And he smiles back and says to her, It will happen, and then again, because she did not seem to hear it, “It will happen.”

Alana mumbles her response – something he does not hear. She rolls over again onto her side and returns to sleep, but he is now awake again, awkwardly aware that the conversation has gone the way of all dreams and never actually occurred.

Go to Day Eleven

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