Sound of Silence

My husband started his new job last night -- well, his new shift at his new job -- and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to start taking sleeping pills and going to bed at 8:00 now, just so I can deal with the soul-crushing quiet. We have a three-year-old in our house, an HDTV, satellite service, multiple computers. So why did I spend the evening washing dishes and folding laundry just to have something to do?

It's been a long time since my husband worked nights, since before Shae and probably years before that, and I'm not used to it any more. I know how weird and codependent and neurotic it makes me sound to say that I don't really like it -- but I don't really like it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad he has a job, bonus that it's one he actually likes, and I know this swing-shift business is only temporary. It's not even as inconvenient as it could be, because he works 3pm-2am, four nights a week, Mondays through Thursdays. He's getting up to take Shae to school in the mornings, and he'll be home at night on the weekends, so we can still do our running amok and our visiting and our catching up with all the shows on our TiVo and sitting in the same room on two different computers playing World of Warcraft.

But my house is creepy at night, especially now that it gets dark so early. It's cold and drafty and last night Shae wasn't feeling well so she basically put herself to bed at 6:00 and left me all alone. The cats kind of hang around, but it's just the girls, and they're not particularly noisy. Bossy, yes, when they have a particularly irritating itch that needs to be scratched, or if they're out of food and water. But mostly last night they just followed me around so they could be where I was and ... I don't know, stare at me, I guess.

It made me miss Owen a whole hell of a lot, that's for damn sure.

I made dinner basically in silence. Shae sprawled out on the couch and watched The Sound of Music and didn't move until it was time to eat. When we sat down to supper she just sat there, pathetically staring at her plate, sometimes poking at the scalloped potatoes, occasionally whimpering. No conversations. No negotiations. No noise. Very awkward and Stepford. I packed up the leftovers and put them in the fridge for his lunch tonight and never once had to tell anybody to get their grubby mitts out of the candy jar.

Not even mine. It's no fun to cheat on your diet if nobody is going to catch you.

Once Shae was tucked in, I kind of wandered around the house, trying to motivate myself to do some of the housework that desperately needs to be done because for yet another year I failed to get maid service for Christmas. I washed and dried and put away two full racks of dishes. I scrubbed out the chili pot and scraped the cookie sheets. I rooted through the cupboard and made a menu plan for dinner for the rest of the week. I gathered up the rest of the clothes Shae got for Christmas, removed all the bags and tags and wrappers, and folded all her laundry. I even laid out the clothes that I wore to work today so I could hit the snooze button this morning.

Well, okay, so he could hit the snooze button this morning. He's closer to the alarm clock anyway; that's his job. I didn't get married so I would have to do that kind of thing by myself.

And then I went to bed. All alone. With nobody heckling my ratty T-shirt or my old-lady slipper-socks. There were no random fits of laughter coming from downstairs, from him talking to his friends over Skype while they play video games together. No lights, no footsteps on the stairs, no bathroom sounds. The toilet didn't even run, not once. It was strange to lay there and have to rely on myself to know when to go to sleep, having to act like an actual adult and not someone who plays one on TV. I'm a bedtime reader, and when I get really into a book, I can go for hours, uninterrupted. But if my husband is lying next to me and I have the light on, he grumbles and groans and grouches and makes me settle down, instead of staying up until half-past midnight reading Catching Fire again when I should have been asleep hours earlier.

Don't even get me started on how strange it is to try go to sleep in that bed all by myself. Normally it feels like our queen-size bed is so small, when it's him and me and the cats, trying to get comfortable, staking out a section of our own, clenching the covers so someone else doesn't steal them, fighting over which setting on the electric blanket is the correct one, accidentally kicking each other or elbowing each other in the face. There was no breathing, no random bits of hours-old conversations brought back up to be rehashed, no rude involuntary bodily noises startling us awake as we drift off through the myoclonic jerks.

Instead, it was just me and two cats, and I felt like some kind of crazy spinster with her furry four-legged children sprawled across the afghan, sleeping in the middle of this great big giant queen-sized bed, all by myself. I went to sleep with an itchy back because there was no one there to scratch it for me, just in the right spot, right how I like it, aaaaaaah right there between the shoulder blades.

And I especially missed my kiss goodnight.

When he gets home from work he comes to bed and I'm sure he kisses me, but I'm also sure that I'm three-quarters asleep, grumping about having to move now that I've finally gotten comfortable, so I don't appreciate it. Plus I have my night-time bruxism guard in, so I'm doing goofy things with my mouth, and I always have some kind of sinus cold, so I'm pretty sure my breath is not so very pleasant. It's just not the same as kissing him goodnight with minty-fresh teeth just before we settle into a mutually-soothing breathing rhythm.

Today Shae is feeling better and I expect that it's going to be a completely different scene tonight. We'll fight over how many bites of noodles and sausage and vegetables she needs to eat, whether or not she can have a treat, whether I will let her stay up until the end of the rest of The Sound of Music or if I will make her go to bed right before the part at the convent. We'll wrestle over bath and hair combing and going potty and tooth brushing and saying prayers properly and lights being turned on and toys suddenly appearing in her bed. I'll wash some more dishes, fold some more laundry, diddle around in FarmVille and WoW, and probably stay up too late reading again, because now I'm reading Mockingjay and I can't stop when I get past the good part because the whole book is basically one big good part.

And I still won't get my kiss goodnight. And I don't really like it.


  1. It's funny, isn't it, how we fall into little routines without really even realizing it...and that routines can involve certain sounds. Here's hoping tonight is louder for you. :)

    Also, Mockingjay? SO GOOD.

  2. LOVE MOCKINGJAY. i actually think "the hunger games" is the best of the three, but i also think the original "star wars" is the best of all the star wars movies, so that might tell you something. but i love this trilogy and never get tired of re-reading it.