She loves watching him fall asleep.
The way he fights to keep his eyes open, looking at her, how he slowly loses the battle, blinking more frequently, until finally his eyelids flutter and then stay closed – it never ceases to fascinate her.
His gentle smile evens out as his face relaxes, and his chest beneath her folded arms rises and sinks in an even rhythm now.
It is then that she sees both the little boy and the old man in his face, and she can never tell if it’s just her mind playing tricks on her, or whether there really is a world in-between waking and sleeping, and really, what is that mysterious transition between consciousness and unconsciousness?
And every so often, he suddenly shivers, his entire body twitching violently, sometimes even dislodging her, his hands clawing into the sheets, arms flailing, holding on to her as if for dear life.
Then he looks at her and smiles.
“Someone just walked over my grave,” he says, with a hint of embarrassment that she finds disarmingly endearing.
She rubs his chest in small circles. “No such thing,” she says. “Myoclonus, pure and simple. Involuntary muscle contractions. They can happen both when you’re awake or asleep, but mostly when you’ve just dozed off.”
He places his hand over hers.
“You’re not much for the paranormal, are you,” he says and brings her hand up to gently kiss her fingers.
She puts her cheek down on his chest, stroking his neck.
“Nope,” she sighs. “Not when I know the truth.”
He closes his eyes. “My mother used to say that, when she got the sudden shivers. I remember it used to scare the crap out of me.”
“Mmhmm.” She smiles. “And now?”
He yawns. “Now… well, it’s just a myo-watchamacallit.”
“Myoclonus…” His speech becomes slurred as he drifts off again.
And suddenly she is gripped by an inexplicable shudder herself, as it occurs to her that he, being considerably older than her, most certainly will be the first one to go, and who knows, today she may have walked over the place where his grave will be.
And she can’t help but weep, even though he’s so very much alive, his heartbeat strong against her ear.
He inhales deeply.
“What,” he whispers.
She props herself up and kisses him tenderly on the cheek.
“I love you,” she says, and he smiles as sleep finally claims him.