He's not going to be okay.
What day is this?
I think every thought that could be had scrolled through my head like a filmstrip flapping at the end of a reel. So uncomfortable, my back pressed against the cold plaster wall in the hallway, sitting on the warm wood floor, cowboy boots still on from rushing into the house, thin white filet sweater and strappy embroidered dress, hardly warm enough for the spring we're having. Wild waves of hair no longer parted neatly on one side, instead forked all over the place in a zigzag, scraped back behind one ear so I could see. Watch falling off my wrist and I finally pushed it up to my elbow so it wouldn't scratch Ben's face.
My arms wrapped tight around his head, he lay in my arms on the floor sick, tired, desperate. Listening to my heartbeat and only my heartbeat, nothing else. One of those incredibly dark nights in which my body turns inside out and I can feel every last neuron of pain he fires out looking for contact. His hands alternately clutch at my arms and relax against them as he fights to keep afloat because he knows this is hard. He knows deep inside on the skin-side now since he is inside-out as well, that we're not cut out for this kind of pain. That we're not cut out for ultimatums and rock-bottoms and end-of-worlds. He knows sitting here reminds me of the night Jacob left and he knows I have nothing more to give him than this cold and wooden embrace but it's better than the nothing he has for me right this minute and I stay in this position because the only warmth still here is his breath against me, ragged, harsh and shaking.
I don't know what to say or do. I no longer feel like I can call anyone in this night that sometimes goes on longer than regular-night and ask to be saved and to bring him along. We make mistakes. We sit and wait and know that we'll be rescued, and when he caves in to his demons I keep holding on because he's not allowed to go, not allowed to leave, not allowed to give in, I'll be the dead weight, a hundred pounds sewn into the hem of his shirt to make him hang straight, keep him here, keep him moving slowly.
Not gonna happen.
I've watched all the shadows as they have moved across the cream painted walls and through the open door. I've remarked silently on the dim that takes over the house once the moon takes the place of the sun, and when I heard my phone ringing from where I left it with my car keys on the kitchen table as I ran through the house looking for Ben I realize that it's going to ring nonstop for the rest of the night but I can't get it, because I can't let go.
I startle. The phone isn't ringing anymore. My limbs come to life with a sickening tingle as I realize I must have fallen asleep at last. I crawl out from under the sleeping giant and I can't pry his hands off me. I shake him gently and whisper that he needs to come with me and he nods and sleepwalks his way across the hall, dropping his two hundred pounds of surrender down on the sheets. I pull him out of all of his clothes, shedding the freezing thin dress and awkward boots at the same time and stand on the bed, pulling the quilt up over him and then sliding down against him. He resumes his position in my arms, asleep before I can get a kiss, locked around me and I am a part of him and I feel his body start to give, relaxing one cell at a time, until within minutes he is breathing peacefully and I bring my elbows up tighter around his shoulders, pressing him against me. I kiss the top of his head and his hair tickles my cheek.
Instinctively he squeezes back. Hard. Somehow letting me know I haven't lost him too.
Morning brings the light back in, and makes everything hurt a little less, and PJ is in the kitchen downstairs, making coffee. Because not answering my phone is permission for PJ to use his key.