The Comatose Wife
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
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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