My husband kicks his right leg every 13 seconds when he first falls asleep. It lasts around 9 minutes. The reason I know this isn’t because I timed it. It’s just accumulated subconscious knowledge from lying next to him for almost twenty years. Kind of like beach people can tell the exact moment the tide turns. To outsiders it may seem impressive. But there is no magic involved, just long term exposure to the elements.
I know when he punctuates conversations with his Dad’s staccato 2/3 time laugh that he’s trying to make the other person he’s talking to feel at ease. I know his mood by the set of his mouth when he walks in the house from work or by the way he slides lightly under the sheets after he flips off the light at night. I know what his finicky palette would tolerate best from every menu at every restaurant we’ve ever been to. I know him. He would probably say the same thing about me: He knows me.
We know each other and that’s where the drift forms, like the hump down the middle of our mattress, rising up between the two indents left by our bodies on either side. When you can finish each other’s sentences, what is there really left to say that the other doesn’t already know? When you know the response before you even give the question, you stop asking; they stop answering. Comfortable silences can stretch into evenings, into weekends, into weeks, months, years even, punctuated only by the need for perfunctory intel: What are we doing for dinner? How did the kids do in school? Is our show on tonight? You become just an echo in each other’s head, bouncing back and forth the same information until bedtime, where you can lay down in your matching set of dents in the mattress and stare into the twin glow of devices until sleep comes.
After awhile, you spend more and more time in that device glow until the child tug on your arm, or the “I’m home” slam of the front door becomes an irritating jolt back into the hard black and white linear world that is your life and your only thought is how soon you can return back to that soft glowing world of strangers. Strangers who will LOL at your jokes like they are brand new. Strangers who will wonder at your wit and call your thoughts profound, who will read every word you type and respond with adoring hearts and emojis. Strangers you can double click on or off whenever you want, that you can invite or ban with a touch of a finger on a cool slick screen. Strangers you don’t know, who you’ll never meet. That you’d never really want to.
You find yourself inside the Matrix of your own making– eating a bloody steak you know isn’t real with people halfway across the country doing the same thing. All the while, living complex creatures who truly know you sit right beside you–living, breathing bodies that tug at your sleeve, or lie on the other side of the hump in the mattress, seeking the same thing–to truly know and truly be known.