We’ve always woken before the sun, she and I. Until the morning the bed is empty when I wake up, Greta already on the back porch in her underwear. I watch her from the kitchen door, the way her arms flex to reach idly for her coffee. From here she looks fine.
“How long have you been out here?”
She startles. She doesn’t answer.
“Did you ever come to bed?”
She doesn’t answer. I don’t remember when we stopped talking to each other.
“There’s more coffee,” is all she says.
The next time the bed is empty when I wake up, Greta’s outside, splayed out naked on the back porch, trembling in her sleep. I want to pick her up, carry her inside like a husband is supposed to do, but I honestly don’t know how she’d react. The last time she voluntarily touched me was six weeks ago, a cool hand on my arm at a dinner party. I don’t remember the last time I saw her naked and I feel like I shouldn’t look at her for as long as I do. I’m so frustrated I feel like I could jerk off right now, standing above my sad, unconscious wife on the porch. I touch my dick through my underwear but I don’t get hard. I go back inside. I dress for work. I make breakfast for one. Coffee for one.
I don’t even bring her a blanket.
I start sleeping with my friend Hira the following week. She’s so vibrant, so into me. We make eye contact when we talk, when we clink glasses, when we fuck. I wonder how long it would take until Hira doesn’t talk or touch me. I wonder how long until Hira lies naked on the back porch the entire night.
“Spend the night,” she says one night after months of this. “Find a way.”
I don’t look at her face and I realize I’m the one who’ll start this. I’m the one who won’t look at her. I’m the one who won’t speak to her.
“I can’t,” I say.
I tell Greta everything and she looks away.
“I know,” she says. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I just—” I start, but I realize I’m about to blame her. “—I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s okay. I love you,” she says in the way we say it to each other every day without touching, without love.
The next morning I’ll wake before the sun and I’ll look to my side and maybe she’ll be there and if she’s not she’ll be on the porch and it’s like a game now.