“You just moaned,” she said in the darkness.

“I know,” I replied, suddenly wide awake.

“What the hell was that?” she asked me.

“Had a nightmare.  We heard something so I got up to check it out and I went all around the house–it wasn’t this house, though, way more rooms and corridors–but there was nothing there.  I was going back to bed and I then I saw someone standing there and it scared the shit out of me.  I couldn’t see the face, just their slight form and I was so freaked out I actually puked into my hand and then threw it at them and shouted and then I woke up.”

“Well that wasn’t a shout you let out,” Lu replied. “More like a moan.”

“I know.  I woke myself up!”

That was at four thirty in the morning.  I fell back to sleep eventually, but it was a fitful sleep and when I got up for the day I had a crushing, twisting knot between my neck and my shoulder blade.  That particular pain has been with me off and on for many years, and I know that whenever it flares up it means I’m way too stressed out.

I was fine before bed, but after that early morning nightmare the muscles seized up and spasmed.  I could feel them throbbing all day.

It’s never fun to be in pain, but I have less tolerance for it now than ever before.  I use ice and heat, Lu helps with massage and after a few days I’m usually back to normal.  But the normal I go back to is far away from what it used to be.

Every day without Silas is brutal.  Every day I do not get to be a father beats me to a pulp.  Every month when we are again not pregnant what little bits of hope I’ve managed to find are ground further into a fine dust of desolation and fear.  One night of sleep in a weird position or nodding off on the couch, head tucked into my chest, sends my neck into another twisted crimp that drains me of the energy to battle through another day.

Used to be I could deal with it. Sure I got surly and short when the worst of it hit, but most days I could push through and heal fast.  Now I’m knocked flat because I do not have the mental reserves to deal with the physical pain in my neck as well as the emotional pain of every waking moment.

That afternoon I dropped off some beans at my first delivery and then headed south towards the shop.  It was a glorious summer day and I tried to fight through the various bullshit setbacks that popped up here and there, as well as ignore the furious web of muscle across my back.  The first gas station had been closed and then my card declined at the second.  The road to my delivery was clogged with unmoving traffic so I took a long detour, cursing and wincing the entire way.

I finally made it there, did the drop and then drove on.  As I steered with my right hand, I used my left hand to locate the nexus of the pain on my right shoulder blade, and I went to work.  I pressed in and around, easing the muscles open and releasing the stored stress that gathered on my back.

Missed the Boat, by Modest Mouse came on and I kept pressing even as I sang along.  I felt the pressure build behind my nose and eyes and mouth, and then from the speakers and me shouting along: “Well we knew we had the good things / But those never seemed to last / Oh please just last” and my throat closed, my tearducts opened and I spilled out raging hot tears as my breath caught in my larynx and a guttural groan escaped my clenched teeth.

I pressed against the muscle with two fingers and steered with five and neither the salted liquid in my eyes nor the blasting music around me ever obscured my vision.  A hot stream of rage and pain cascaded down my cheeks and I flew down the road trailing thundering riffs and defiant lyrics.

I thought of the dream from the morning and how the fright finally pushed my stress into that tangled knot of muscle.  From the moment I woke up, all I could think about was Silas:  The day of his birth that still makes me flinch and squirm;  every day since that I cannot believe I’ve survived.

I want to reject this entire option, this whole way of living and yet it lays on me and penetrates my soul so that I can be nothing else than the sum of everything I’ve done, and everything that has happened to me.

I didn’t sob or keen.  I just puked tears out of my eyes and vomited groans and drove down the highway, on my way to work.  And I was better by the time I got there.  My neck and back still hurt, but I could clearly feel that I had released some of the emotion that had been building for many days.

The stress of my emotional pain makes my muscles tense.  When that finally snaps into spasm, the pain pushes me over the edge to where it feels like my whole life is a jagged, broken mess.  My physical body is my last refuge from the World at Large.  When I feel physically good I am better at handling the episodes of sadness and grief.  But when that is compromised by pain or sickness I have no place left to go, and I am left exposed to the raw truth of our loss, both within and without.

The rest of the day went smoothly, and at home that night I sat with Lu as we ate dinner.

“That dream has been with me all day,” I told her.

“It is so freaky,” she replied.

“Yeah, it scared the shit out of me.  And so gross, I can’t believe I puked and caught it and threw it at the Intruder.”

“That’s one way to scare someone off.”

“I guess so,” I replied and then shuddered, remembering.  “And then I shouted!”

“Well, it wasn’t much of a shout.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she replied, half-laughing.  “It was more of a ‘Eeeee oooohhh aaaahh'”

“Eeeeooohhhaaaaah…” I imitated her imitating me and she started laughing so hard.  Then I tried to do it again but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t get the shout-from-the-bottom-of-a-nightmare-well out without bursting into guffaws.

Now all I have to do is go “eeeeoooahhh!” and we both crack up, and that is far better than either of us cracking up for real.