“Do you ever wake up and get annoyed that the world still exists?”
David thought about the question, pressing the soggy flakes of his cereal under the milk with the tip of his spoon. At the other end of the table, Rebecca sipped her morning coffee, staring into the sink across the room, as if she had been addressing it instead of her husband.
“Not really,” he said at last. He lifted a heaping spoonful up to his mouth. “After all, if the world didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be around to wake up in it, would you?”
Still staring into the sink, Rebecca’s frown deepened, the set of her shoulders growing tauter, like someone stepping onto a tightrope. “That’s not what I mean.”
David looked closer at the woman across the table. Hair piled on top of her head, still damp from the liberal application of hair spray, she looked more like a statue than a person, pale skin wrapped in a soft grey dress suit, the one she had bought several years ago when she first started at the firm. Black pumps dangled off the ends of her small feet, like ripe fruit hanging heavy off a sickly branch. He breathed in and caught the smell of her lavender perfume, so familiar now it barely registered in his mind.
“It’s like…” Her lips rolled under her teeth and back out again. She turned to him suddenly, dull green eyes half hidden behind squinting lids. “…people always tell you, when things are going wrong, that you should go to sleep; that things will be better in the morning. But when you wake up, the world is all still there, just like it was the night before. It’s not like you falling asleep is going to affect things.”
“I suppose not. But I think it’s supposed to make you feel different. Less…whatever it was you were before.”
David leaned back from the table, running his hands down the front of his wrinkled sweat pants. “We work things out in our sleep. In our subconscious and through dreams and things. And maybe you were just tired before, but now you’re well rested and things look different. Like looking out a window at different times of the day.”
Rebecca grimaced again. She turned her attention back to the sink. “But it’s all still the same.”
She looked older when she frowned. The lines of her face deepened, and her skin pulled tighter over her cheek bones, as if there were less of it to cover her than before. She had been looking much older lately, ever since David had quit his job.
A soft piano concerto began to play on the radio; something melodic, perhaps Chopin. David watched her finish her coffee and place the stained white mug onto the table, fitting the bottom into the already present ring of condensation with perfect accuracy.
“Are you alright?”
“Tired, I guess,” she said. Rebecca’s eyes lifted from the sink to the clock on the windowsill above it. She stood, smoothing out her skirt with one hand as the other swept up her purse. “I’m late for work.”
David did not want her to leave. He usually liked having the house to himself all day, but this morning the empty rooms sucked at him, like he was water spiraling towards an open drain. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Rebecca didn’t even pause as she moved through the door. “Make sure this world doesn’t exist tomorrow morning.”
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