Snore, a short story by Robyn Hugo McIntyre
General fiction: Short Story
Author: Robyn Hugo McIntyre
Word count: 1200
She hated his snoring. Some nights, as she got between the cool sheets, she closed her eyes and visualized hitting him with a frying pan. A cast iron frying pan. No blood, no corpse, no consequences, other than peace and quiet.
In the early days, she hadn’t minded. Lying there listening, it had seemed somehow right that he should snore. It seemed some kind of cachet, a rite of passage, the final proof that she had left girlhood behind and was now a married woman with all of the burdens married women bore. She mentioned it when she gathered with other women, laughing as she told of the volume and duration of the exhalations. The other women smiled and told about their husbands and she felt happy that they had all married such men, such virile men.
But that had been years ago. Maybe dislike had uncurled into hate during the first pregnancy when she had crawled into bed needing rest, only to find his snoring compelled her to wait for it. Maybe she had begun to hate it in that moment when she had realized she would never get used to it.
She had thought his snoring would become like some pleasant background noise; electronic surf moving in and out, finally sailing her into Sleepy Lagoon. Instead, although sleep eventually found her, it always found her slightly irritated. Asleep, she retained awareness of his snoring, as one might be aware of a flea bite or the whine of a mosquito.
It was during the second pregnancy that she had begun to have the frying pan fantasy, wryly telling herself that only a cast iron frying pan could make much of an impression on him.
Sans frying pan, she was forced to listen to his snoring until her brain shut itself off in protest at the bulldozer growls and pipe gurgles. The worst was when he sucked in air like wind at the mouth of a cavern, then held it with a wheezy creak for one second, then two, then maybe three seconds. She was always suspended there with it, her own breath trapped in her throat until his was expended in a sudden clattering like hail on a tin roof.
When he was promoted and began to take the occasional business trip, it became horrifyingly clear that she would never have relief. Those snores, meaty and collateral, had become a sort of nighttime governor for her. She had to hear them, feel them vibrate through the bedclothes around her, or she would not fall asleep at all. Cruel irony.
Yet, in the morning, between getting up and getting everyone else up, her nightly struggle against his personal noise pollution seemed part of someone else’s life. Not important enough for comment. Usually, not even important enough to remember. In the daytime, he was not the source of an irritating and oddly necessary sound in the dark. In the daytime, he was someone to be kissed, fed, loved. Only late at night did she think longingly of separate bedrooms. Only at night did she sometimes have the frying pan fantasy. At night, she listened to his snores and catalogued them, eventually falling asleep to dream of bees and honey.
. . .
It took him no time at all to fall asleep. Not ever. He no sooner put his head on the pillow and closed his eyes, than he lay down the burdens of his day and gratefully surrendered both logic and reason.
In ten seconds, sometimes less, he departed the known world for the world of the subconscious, and he enjoyed every minute of it. For the first two or three hours. Before the torture began.
After a long day spent dealing with what passed for intelligence in his business discipline, then the hazards of the commute, then spending quality time with the kids, his body absolutely craved being horizontal. At the first complete surrender of his muscles to the embrace of the mattress, he would sigh deeply. Molding the pillow to the contours of his head, he settled in, inducing a second level of relaxation that sent him drifting easily and effortlessly away to a renewal of strength and purpose.
But somewhere in the second or third hour of that sleep, across the sheet her feet would come, first one, and then the other. Frigid, the definition of arctic winter, they sought out his warmth and attached themselves lamprey-like to his legs, where they sucked the delicious heat away in nearly the same microsecond in which he would awake, blank-eyed and shivering.
Of course, he always got back to sleep again, but it inevitably took a few minutes of staring at the darkness, a trip to the bathroom, maybe a drink of water before he was once again ready to renew his nighttime journey. Naturally, she was sound asleep, her vampire heat-seekers now toasty warm on his side. His re-entry into the bed was somewhat reluctant then, because he knew that the bedclothes had somehow lost their earlier magic. He would have to lie there, exercising his eyelids until they finally got too heavy to lift and he could let them all the way down and come down with them to sleep again.
Until there was an arm in his face, or a knee in his stomach. It was at moments like these that he thought savagely of using his extra-wide size twelves to propel her onto the hardwood floor or to think of pillows less as instruments of suffocation than as tools necessary to peace and quiet.
But such thoughts disappeared as quickly as they had come, and he would push arm or knee away and wait for sleep to begin anew. After so many years, he knew that attempting to sleep without her by his side was problematical. When that had happened, he didn’t know. He only knew that, if she was not there, he would spend the night in a half sleep, searching for her. On more than one business trip, he had woken with his hand patting the place where she should be, his leg drawn up to where she ought to have fit together with him like spoons in a drawer. He hated that empty space worse than any frosty toe and over time had acquired the bumps and bruises to prove it.
The next morning, even if he had been inclined to mention it, there was always a question, a request for lunch money, something in the morning paper, to distract him. And what could be done, after all? She probably could not change the way she slept any more than she could stop her fingernails from growing. And he could not sleep without her.
Still, he sometimes teased her about it, showing his bruises and complaining of freezer burns on his hindquarters, but he was careful not to take it too far. She didn’t like it, and mentioning it in front of others might precipitate comparisons, though he was largely confident that nothing he could do in his sleep could compare with an elbow in the eye. He was absolutely sure that the worst he ever did was snore.