The Comatose Wife
Pir Rothenberg

I have two relationships with my wife: one while she is awake and one while she is asleep. By asleep I mean she is comatose, unwakeable, which is how she sleeps after too many drinks.

It happens only three or four times a year that she drinks too much, that she falls into this sort of sleep.

The first time we were in the car returning home from a small party. This was before we were married. She had seemed fine the entire night, had said her goodbyes and walked with me to the car on stable legs. Early on the trip home we had a brief, coherent chat about the evening, but after a few blocks I saw she was asleep. At home, I tried waking her. She groaned against my shakes and jabs, then seemed to retreat further inside herself because she stopped groaning. So I drove around some more. I put the music up loud.

The trouble when it happens in the car is that then I have to carry her into the house and to the bedroom. Although she is light, her body seems incredibly heavy when comatose. It's as though the heaviness of her sleep adds to her weight. I now have an efficient system, at least, for getting her easily into the house that involves opening certain doors first and et cetera. It's how I get her out, too, when she falls asleep like that at home and I want to take her for a ride.

I made love to my wife while she was comatose. The first time, because she had moaned and sighed and seemed to react to my touch, I assumed she was only groggy. She said nothing about it the next morning, nor on the morning, months later, after I did it again, so it became clear to me she remembered nothing. I moved her around and positioned her as I pleased, but because she was my wife I never thought of her as merely a doll or a mannequin. Instead, I was excited to imagine my wife's pleasure, which I felt she must have been experiencing deep inside a vigorous dream.

Within a year I had moved to other activities. I began reading to her things she normally wouldn't have read: articles from scientific journals, the sports column. I began dressing her up in her clothes, some of which she hadn't worn in a while, and which were nice to see her in again. Once I dressed her in my clothes, and her small body's shape became obscured behind my suit and tie. I bathed her once. I thought for sure this would wake her, but it didn't, and I had to be careful that she didn't slide beneath the water as I washed her. Another time I made a late night dinner and propped her up in an armchair at the table. I wasn't hungry, though, and I had wrenched my back carrying her that time.

I suppose I moved on to those other activities because making love to my wife while she was unconscious had begun to feel different. I was forgetting to love my wife and instead only loving myself. I was watching the dead, joyless slosh of her breasts, the soup of lifeless muscles beneath her skin, loving myself like a parasite loves itself. One must always be careful of what one loves, and how one loves it. 

I never speak to her. That is, I never tell her of my life while she is asleep, never unburden myself of secrets, resentments, doubts. But then, I tell those things to my waking wife, that beautiful girl I met in college, whose third wedding anniversary we share in two weeks, a driven woman who started her own consultancy firm last year, who speaks to me of children, who loves me fiercely, and stops me cold with her bright, blue eyes. 

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