Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum
Struck by the sounds before the sun
I knew the night had gone
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drum of dawn
From Lay Down Your Weary Tune by Bob Dylan
Sorrowful but not broken. Feeling the pain as it commands. The calling of wind not subtle. But the anguish from previous nights. Has faded softly swaying with the trees. And here I sit. Befuddled. Lost in the empty evening. I don't know where she is and it is awful.
She is not my wife. Just my everything. But is has not been good these days. With me struggling emotionally and not providing physical love or emotional presence. I do not anger. Just twitch at the recriminations. Her name is Annie and we have been together for five years. Intwined in love. Devouring each other's passion. Melting into eternity together. But the soft space between us that allowed us to rest comfortably has given way to the hard truth of my illness. My desperate pain as I struggle with a deep dark sorrow invading me, expelling all joys and forcing me to contemplate void eternal. My impotence is all encompassing. Sex impossible. Tenderness forced. Playfulness a chore. I can offer Annie nothing.
So this Saturday night as the wind and rain and dark mingle outside my window and as I sit in the dark lazily brooding, Annie is touching another man. She may be brushing a hand accidentally. She may be pressing her lips against his mouth. She may be in sexual ecstasy. It is 11:20 PM.
I think about subjecting myself to analysis. Unveiling my life to a stranger. I think of alternative methods for healing emotional wounds. I think of medications and exercise and yoga and meditation and religion and alcohol and psychedelics and solitude and traveling and suicide. And none of it sounds like anything more than the wind. Not even jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge has any appeal. It seems too theatrical for such a mundane existence. Annie is exhausted by my indifference to this suffering, my acceptance that this is how I am now. She needs life and energy and fun and affection. But she won't leave me. Not yet, anyway. I suspect that is coming. For now she is too loyal.
But. Annie announced a few weeks ago that she would see other men until I got better or at least made an effort to. At first it was an idle threat but as I did or said nothing in response, Annie has followed through with her vow. She's gone to lunch with someone named Erik, and to a museum and a movie. But this is their first date at night. Annie left at 6:30. Alluring attire and smelling like a rose garden in early Spring. She sang happily while getting ready to go. I slumped deeper into my chair. Annie kissed me goodbye and said, "don't wait up for me." I thought she laughed as she said it. Sometimes I'm not sure of what I hear anymore. I'm sure of few things other than my misery. This hell I live in.
There is a rustling outside the window. Perhaps a stray dog or a raccoon. I think that it is happier than I am. There are thick bushes in front and to one side of the house. I've thought of trimming them but that would require far more effort than I feel capable of. Now it is 12:28 and I hope Annie will come home soon. I hope that I feel better soon. I hope that our lives can go back to the way they were. But I see no way that this will ever happen. All I see is the bleak night outside and the bleak night within me.
Annie deserves better. Much better. But I...I wish it were me who could give it to her. Within all the pain it is still evident that I love her beyond measure. I want her here beside me, right now. I want to hold her and love her and take care of her and make a life with her. Yet she is out with someone named Erik. I imagine a tall handsome, athletic fellow, perhaps with a beard. He must surely be warm and gentle yet tough and strong. He must be a man through and through. Doubtless a sensitive, passionate lover, expert at satisfying women. This Erik chap must surely be this very minute giving my dear Annie the kind of sexual pleasure I've become incapable of. Will she compare him to me? Will she fall in love with him? Have I already lost her forever? Is she just biding her time with me until someone takes her away? These thoughts intensify my misery. I can no longer muster so much as a sigh.
I manage to doze still sitting in my chair. I awake and it is 2:13. Annie is still not home. Finally I get up to pee. I stop in the kitchen for some sad, stale crackers and a glass of tap water. I return to the chair and wonder if I should go to bed. Annie had said that she and Erik were going to a play then a late dinner. I'm sure he invited her to his place. I'm sure they're there now. They met in a photography class at the community college. This is their fourth time together -- that I know of.
When I first met Annie I was a graduate student and she a junior. We fell instantly in love and it was less than a year before we moved in together. We'd always been perfectly happy. Past tense. Annie finished her degree and has since been working at an ecology center. I've been teaching English part time at a private school. I also collect royalties from my first novel and receive money from a trust fund. I am successful, physically fit and have a beautiful, intelligent girlfriend. But of course I am miserable. And I don't know why. I don't know why I am beset by such awful depression.
At 3:01 I hear a car door close and then Annie walking up the steps. She breezes in not noticing me sitting in the dark. After using the toilet she goes into our bedroom. The light is on for less than a minute. I assume Annie's gotten into bed and will soon be fast asleep. How has she not noticed my absence from our bed? She must be drunk.
The wind and rain have stopped. There is no sound. Nothing. It's like Annie never came home. I stare into the darkness. Then I cry. At last. Nothing for months and now I convulse with sobbing. My body shakes and the tears flow and my chest hurts from it and I can't even pinpoint a single source, a spark for this weeping. It goes on and on and snot drops to the floor and all over my shirt and I'm wet with tears and I feel terrible and marvelous at the same time. A release. A wonderful release of misery reminding me that it's there but that some of it is oozing out of me.
It stops. I stagger to the bathroom and blow and blow and blow my nose until it is dry and it hurts then I wash my face and stare into the mirror wondering who I'm looking at and what has become of me and why I deserve this pain and what made me at long last express it through tears. Was it Annie? This feeling now after the weeping is better. Much.
I brush my teeth and have an eternal debate about whether I should sleep next to Annie or on the sofa. Either way would be making a statement. Expressing either shame and anger or understanding and acceptance. It's silly not to get into my own bed and so I do.
Of course Annie is fast asleep. I smell the alcohol from her breath and pores. It is strong and sickly. She is naked. Annie always sleeps with a cotton nightgown so her nudity suggests she was too tired or too wasted or both to find and put her nightgown on. Even in the darkness her beauty seems especially radiant. As my eyes get used to the bedroom's darkness I stare at her. I'm sure that she has made love to Erik. I can sense it. I'm repulsed and aroused by the thought. Actual arousal. I haven't felt it in weeks. The sobbing has opened up my libido. As I finally lay down Annie turns in my direction and her body is pressed against mine. I am overwhelmed with desire for her, my body aches with sexual desire, pent up for so long. I cannot control myself. It starts with rubbing her back, her buttocks, her breasts, it evolves into kissing her. Annie wakes, says nothing but dreamily looks into my eyes and kisses me back. We make love. It is transcendent, mystical, a deep and profound physical, soulful experience the likes of which I couldn't have dreamed possible.
Wordlessly Annie goes back to sleep. I lay next to her in a veritable stupor of spent ecstasy. When at least sleep comes it swallows me whole and I doze soundly.
It is almost noon when I rise. Annie is sitting on the sofa drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. She looks up at me and smiles. "That was quite a performance you gave last night," she says. I blush and can think of nothing to say. "Was beginning to think you didn't have it in you anymore." After a pause. "But you sure do." She gets up and kisses me.
After a shower and breakfast I finally feel ready to talk. The depression is gone. Annie admits to having "gotten pretty well toasted" the night before and having had sex with Erik. "It was good, but you are fantastic." My feelings are complicated enough. But I'm feeling too good to do anything but to accept the bottom line. She had sex with another man and it was good. But I was better. And she is here with me now as she has been. "Do you feel betrayed? Are you angry? Tell me what you're feeling." I tell Annie that I am "back among the living" as my "performance" revealed and that maybe her dalliance had been the shock my system needed. "In that case," she says, "Old Erik was just a one night stand."
I feel a broad grin fill my face. I look into Annie's eyes. "Will you marry me?" I ask.