Mourning Routine

When Brad’s alarm went off, he knew he wouldn’t get up until it went off again and so, after pressing snooze on his phone screen, he pulled the covers up tighter around his shoulders and neck and lay there. It was fall but it felt like winter, and Brad refused to turn on the old radiator that sat under the solitary window and close to his bed. The room was cold but his body heat had warmed the space between his mattress and comforter and he wanted to enjoy that warmth for the fifteen minutes he had left before the alarm would again signal his waking.

Brad lay on his stomach, turned slightly onto his right hip and ribs with his left knee pulled up. He tried to lie as still as possible. It was a game he liked to play with himself in the mornings, though he never thought of it as a game. In his stillness he became conscious of his weight pressing into the softness of his bed and he imagined the bed as something else: something fluid and heated–a tar pit maybe, he thought, and imagined its surface tension breaking to receive him in a slow sinking, the soft tickle moving over his nose, brows, ribs and knees to eventually close over his back, encasing him in a dark womb. Brad thought that would be nice.

The alarm sounded.

When brad had first gotten the smartphone and set his morning alarm, he had used his favorite song, believing it might make rising more pleasant. He hated the song now but wouldn’t bother to change it. Brad picked up the phone, turned off the song and tossed the covers back. Brad believed that the best way to acclimate to a cool pool was simply to jump in, and he handled the morning chill in the same fashion, standing quickly with a stretch and stepping to the bathroom.

Brad turned on the shower and used the toilet while he waited for the spray to warm, and then stepped in, pulling the shower curtain closed behind him. He stood for a moment, letting the hot water run over his head, flattening his bed-hair, and into his beard. There were some mornings when Brad felt too tired to stand and would sit on the shower floor; this was one of those mornings. Brad sat and pulled his legs to his chest, resting his forehead against his knees, the water drumming against the vertebrae of his neck and upper back. He watched the water pooling in his skin folds and running over his shins and from his ankles and imagined for a moment that he was a great mountain under a storm, with rivers, creeks and cavern lakes full and angry. Brad sat motionless like that until he felt the water turn from hot to warm, and then he stood and quickly washed.

As he stepped from the shower and began to dry himself, Brad thought about how he and his wife would shower together some mornings, sharing the water–a warm shoulder, a cold back. The shower wasn’t big enough for two people but they showered together anyway, and he remembered how he would press himself against the shower wall, out of the warmth, to give her room to shave her legs. He missed that.

Brad looked into the mirror over his sink and decided his beard wouldn’t need a trim for a couple more days, so he combed it out and then brushed his teeth. Then he picked up his medicine bottle. There were two of them, and they were identical–one for the evening and one for the morning. Brad gave the bottle a slight shake, to hear and feel the rattle of pills to make sure he’d picked up his morning dose. The evening bottle was for his heart and had already done its nightly work. Brad pressed and twisted the plastic cap, shaking a single yellow pill just slightly larger than a grain of rice into his palm and then brought it to his mouth, swallowing without water.

Brad thought of the night before he’d begun taking the morning pills, two months earlier. He’d cried himself to sleep because he didn’t want to take them–that doing so meant admitting he was broken. Brad still hated taking the morning pills, but he didn’t cry about it anymore; the medication helped with that kind of thing.

Brad dressed himself for work and then returned to the bathroom to comb his hair. Then he had a bowl of cereal as he watched a bit of the morning news. He didn’t pay attention to the news but thought of his children instead, how long it would always take to get them ready for school–finding matching socks and lost shoes and misplaced backpacks–and how they were rushing out the door and how he never had had time for a bowl of cereal or news. He remembered thinking at the time that it would be so much easier if he only had to worry about getting himself ready in the morning. As he sat there eating his cereal and watching his news he decided it was not easier at all.

Brad finished his cereal, turned off the tv, and left the bowl on the end table. I’ll clean you later, he said aloud. He grabbed his keys from the hook next to the door and headed out, locking the door behind him. Brad got into his minivan, turned the ignition, and backed out of the garage.

As he pulled out, he noticed that the sky was overcast and pewter-gray, but where the sunrise should be the clouds had taken on the deep purple of a bruise, and as he made his drive to work he watched in the rearview mirror as they brightened to a watercolor-pink. Brad wondered for a moment whether it might be some kind of promise or warning. Then he remembered he didn’t believe in that kind of thing.


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