Empty Bed Blues
I can hear the beanbag chair rustle as she levers herself out of it. The brisk strides to the bathroom, the slamming door, the silence. The toilet flushes, the door opens, three steps, the crunch of beads and the chimes as she unpauses the game to continue her immersion into Link's latest adventure.
I'm upstairs in the tub, soaking my bruised ribs after two weeks of intense coughing finally wore my body down. Breathing is uncomfortable, laughter is a slight sting and the inevitable cough that follows is a sharp jab in the side. I haven't had a quiet moment to myself for a while. Too little occupying my mind tends to bring my focus back to the itch in my lungs, the little cough-goblin trying to claw its way out of my throat with every exhale.
I climb out of the bath and wince as I try to dry off without actually touching my aching side. I want to tell her I'm ready for bed, but I don't know if I can handle seeing my own selfishness reflected back at me again.
I think about watching her play. Her face still with concentration; her mouth opens a little as she leans forward. She doesn't respond to casual conversation once she's in deep. Direct questions are acknowledged with a slightly annoyed quip -- anything to satisfy my attention so she can get on with playing.
I gingerly make my way down the stairs, the sounds of epic music and a horse galloping grow louder with each step. I can already feel my mind slipping into the well worn track of our conversations the last few nights. I shuffle into the living room and keep my eyes locked on her, careful to avoid looking at the TV and spoiling any surprises the game may have in store for me. She's about 30 hours further than I am.
"Hey," I say. "It's 2AM, I think I'm going to bed."
She doesn't respond. I think she heard me; her eyebrow twitched.
"Acknowledge that you heard me," I say, like I'm speaking to a drunk. "Last night you were surprised at how late it was an hour after I'd already told you."
"Yes, I heard you," she says with a smirk, her expression melting back into neutral as the last syllable passes her lips.
"Ok, good night."
I lean forward to kiss her. She shies away reflexively, staring intently at the screen.
It's my turn to slog up the stairs alone. To make the bed and climb into the cold sheets, listening to the distant swish of swords and grunting enemies. I am Karla, staring at the dark ceiling and listening to her husband obliterate pixels as if they were more important than that state we sometimes reach just before sleep, when we have our best conversations.
This is what she's done hundreds of times before, only rarely complaining when a game keeps me up too many nights in a row.
I'm not used to lying in an empty bed. Usually it would be me sliding in after playing games for half the night, enjoying the pre-warmed covers and watching her breathe softly. I would revel in those moments of feeling so damn lucky to be with this beautiful, tolerant woman. Seeing it from the other side, it casts my game playing into a different light. It makes me burn with shame for not seeing it sooner.
I lay awake for an hour. I don't sleep well at the best of times; sleeping alone is even worse. Eventually the sound stops. I hear her turn off the lights and tip toe up the stairs. She brushes her teeth and quietly slips into bed, trying not to disturb me. I'm awake, but I keep my breathing regular, playing into her assumption. I don't want to chide her or ask how the game is. I just want to curl up around this guilty feeling and remember it very well.