Nightmares

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The wind was howling when you called, long after I’d gone to bed.  My heart pounded as I answered my phone.  You never called me after seven.  I did my best to sound awake when I said hello to you.  All I heard on your end was breathing.  Shaken, halting breathing.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, my heart twisting with worry.

You took in another hitching breath and held it.  I realized that perhaps you couldn’t trust yourself to speak.  I sank back down in my pillows, pressing the phone to my ear.

“It’s okay,” I whispered, “I’m right here.  You don’t need to say anything.”

In a sudden rush you released your breath, as though I’d flung open the door to an over-crowded room.  The wind outside matches your gust, making my house shudder.

In.  Out.  In.  Pause.

Each breath sounded like a struggle for calm.  I listened in silence, wondering what you needed me to do.  Wondering what was wrong and if I should say something.  I wished I knew the right words to make you feel better, but I didn’t.  So I listened.

Your breath came out like a whistle, and you sucked it back in through your teeth.  My eyelids drooped against the pitch black in my room, and I imagined you sitting in yours.

Out.  In.  Out.  In.

Your breathing started sounding smoother.  I hoped that I was helping in some silent way, because my brain never comes up with good words until they aren’t needed.  I heard you move and hoped you were settling down in your bed.  It was late, and you needed to get some sleep.

Your breaths became quieter, I could hardly hear them through the phone’s speaker.  I wondered if perhaps you’d gone to sleep, but then you drew in a deep breath and murmured two words to me.

“Thank you.”

A smile of relief pulled at my face, my muscles relaxing.  You whispered goodbye and hung up, and I’d let my phone slip down the side of my face.

I never found out what was wrong, or why you called, or what you had expected from me.  I do hope you’re at least a little better now.

It is my hope that, perhaps, I’d done something to help.

 

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