He wakes up screaming. I spit the toothpaste out of my mouth, and return the toothbrush to its mount. I rush back to the bedroom to sooth him. I can tell he doesn’t know where he is. I lay down on the bed next to him, stroke his hair, make cooing sounds like I’m talking to a baby or a dog.
“It’s okay. I’m here.”
“Did I? Was I?” he stammers.
“You were just asleep.”
“It gets harder to tell the difference.”
“I know baby, I know.”
Once he’s calm, I finish getting ready and leave for work. Even with the delay, I still have plenty enough time to stop by From the Ground Up for a latte. It’s always crowded at this hour, but people let me go first. I try to refuse, but I know they won’t. The barista refuses to charge me as well, though I still tip them for the full price of my coffee.
Most superhero spouses are either supers themselves, or they’re anonymous to the public. But everybody knows me. The first time Adam died when he stopped the Prism invasion, there was a huge state funeral. Of course, I was in attendance. Why should I hide now that he was dead? And if I was there, maybe his whole life could be celebrated. Not just the larger-than-life hero, but the kind man he was in his daily life. So, there I was the grieving widow. Footage of me was everywhere, so now everybody knows who I am. Even though I’m no longer a widow.
“It must be nice to have him back,” Sally from payroll says.
Sally talks about being back from the dead like it’s getting back from a business trip. A lot of people do. Sometimes, even I feel that way about it. The funerals get smaller. I’m not entirely sure if I grieve anymore. What if he dies one time, and he doesn’t come back? How will I even know that he’s not coming back? It’s not fair. But if life were fair, he’d never have come back at all. I wouldn’t have received the gift of more time with him.
“How it that new puppy of yours?” I ask.
I stop for Chinese food on the way home.
“Mrs. Lazarus, there’s an extra order of peking ravioli for you. Our best to your husband.”
“Thank you. Your father is not working today?”
“His heart, it… fluttered. Doctor told him to rest not that he’s happy about it. But I worry. How do I get him to take care of himself?”
I laugh. “Your asking the wrong person about that.”
Adam is watching T.V. when I arrive back at the apartment. His eyes are hollow, and he has a blanket clutched around him. I place the food on the table while he continues switching channels, watching something for a minute or two. A snip of news, a cartoon, a commercial. He views each with the same level of seriousness.
“What is this?” he asks.
“Local weather.” “A game show.” “Historical drama.”
“Is it real? How can you tell?”
“Come have dinner. There’s General Tsao’s.”
He comes to the table. I eat with chopsticks, he uses a fork. He doesn’t seem to enjoy Chinese food like he used to, but he doesn’t dislike it. He doesn’t dislike anything.
He holds up a piece of chicken on his fork, “Is this real?”
He eats it, and nods, but I don’t think he really believes.
After dinner, we sit on the couch together, but I don’t turn on the T.V. I just sit next to him and stroke his hand.
“Grace, you’re real.”
“Grace, I can’t keep doing this.”
“I think more of me is still there than here. But I don’t want to leave you.”
“It’s okay,” I kiss the side of his head, “You can go. You’ve done enough. It’s time to rest.”
We fall asleep like that. I dream of the man I met in college, funny and smart but foolhardy. A man who wanted to save the world but had no idea that he’d do it several times over. A man who says he loves me, before he disappears.
I wake up screaming. But he’s already gone and there’s nobody to soothe me back to calm.