I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself grasping for Corrine.
A blind reach, almost flailing. I don't remember having a nightmare, and I didn't have the telltale symptoms either: shortness of breath, cold sweats, racing heart.
I just woke up and suddenly had to touch her.
She sleeps a quantum distance away most of the night, because we have two children: two-year-old Gabrielle and 9-month-old Griffin, both of whom start the evening in their own beds but always end up with us.
I love and hate this. I love it for all the reasons you parents reading this might be able to enumerate yourselves: the indescribable feeling of love one gets from knowing your children still need you; the way a child's warm body feels next to yours; the fact that for each passing night, they grow older and therefore - by human nature - are looking for ways to get the hell away from you.
I hate it because, well, nothing kills the rising tide of intimacy than knowing your child is sleeping in the same bed as your lover.
The early-morning awakening was not that though. I wasn't looking to get a little, if you know what I mean.
I had a heaviness in my chest. The kind of emotion that feels like there's a hole there, but it also feels weighted.
I get this every so often. It's a feeling of loss. And my immediate reaction is reach out. Cling. Smother.
The best therapy for me is to place my hands on her back, beneath her shirt, and to rub. The way a cat kneads. An almost desperate massage, starting at the lower back. I put my thumbs together and fan the fingers out and press them into her flesh.
I use the heals of my hands and drive them up her spine, the fingertips coursing ahead, making sure the entire back is touched. To the shoulder, then back down. I'll take my left hand and knead her left side, while the right hand traces up and down her back. It's this constant motion, a deep, forceful massage.
I'm not doing it for any other reason than to appease my own fears. And I couldn't elaborate on what those fears are. I don't know what they are. It's like I said, I wake up and feel like I've suffered a loss in some way. Do I dream of losing her? No. I've never dreamed that. In fact, I don't even remember what I was dreaming when these episodes occur.
It's a trigger. I wake up and I'm fully awake. I feel heavy-chested but hollow. The message fills the vacancy. The connection recharges the batteries, I suppose. Fills me up and, like a child who finds himself momentarily lost in the supermarket, the touch is like that moment the child finds his mother again, in the bread aisle.
You catch your breath and you sigh relief, but the fear is still lingering and it forces you toward her. You have to touch her. She has to be tangibly there. And when you are by her side, all is right again and you feel kind of stupid for getting lost and feeling like it was the end of the world.
I know the last thing she needs is to be woken up. Again. In the night. By someone needy. Corrine has not had a full night's sleep since 2004, when she met me.
But I appreciate her being there. Boy do I ever.