After pouring the hot water into a cup, I carry my tea across our small apartment. Stepping over his shoes and my t-shirts, I can feel the hard wood floor cold on my bare feet. Tired, I make my way to our bed and see Isabelle, our old boxer dog snoring. She has positioned herself across both sides of our bed, perpendicular to the pillows atop all the blankets.
He never makes the bed even though he is almost always the last to get out of it. Even Isabelle wiggles her body in her morning dance ritual, snorting and pushing our heads with hers before he will begin his days. To be fair, I never make the bed in the morning either. Tonight instead, like most nights, I have to pull the messy blankets out from underneath Isabelle like someone doing a trick involving a tablecloth and a fully set table. Sometimes I pull quickly, and still gently, trying to leave her suspended somewhere above the blankets undisturbed. Awakened from her slumber and displeased, she snorts, a statuesque vertical lump in the middle of everything. Like him, dogs do not understand the importance of a made bed.
He won’t be home for another hour or two. Isabelle and I will be long asleep and I imagine him riding his bike in the cold back to us. I see the bright white light on the front of his bike as a beacon seeking us as he traverses the city. He has had a long, hard night of work, fingers pressed tightly against the handle of his favorite knife. I hope he didn’t burn himself again, though he never complains about his kitchen injuries. He rides fast to unwind from his day, and I feel the wind on my face as he coasts downhill, riding past all the strangers that will see him before I do.
I set my alarm and shut off the light. Isabelle is asleep on his side of the bed, but she is facing the wrong direction as always. I spin her 180 degrees and she snorts and sighs at me. I turn on my side and throw my arm around her as she begins to quietly bark in her sleep. Her breathing slows and so does mine. She is keeping his side of our bed warm for him. I realize she probably thinks the same about me.
I never hear him come in. He is quiet. Sometimes he intentionally wakes me to say hello or kisses me on my forehead. I straddle my dream and his presence as he recounts the highlights of his night. The restaurant was busy, someone put in two weeks’ notice, and someone walked out on a tab. His silhouette leans in to me as I gather the little pieces of his day I missed forever. When I awake and he is next to me it is as if I pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Isabelle hears me from across the bed and stirs. But it’s cold and she stays put. She knows that he walks her in the morning.
Before I go out the door, wrapped tightly in my winter coat and scarf, I kiss him. He is asleep but it always wakes him up a little bit. I whisper goodbye and that I’ll see him tonight. But I know that I won’t see him until tomorrow morning.