bedtime (a short story)

He closes the door.

Face plate against strike plate. His fingers grip the cold metal, cold sweat coats the doorknob. He tugs. One two three four. It doesn’t open. It doesn’t sway. The words come out in the whisper of his exhale: the door is closed. He releases the doorknob. He steps forward, one step, two. His hand brushes the corner, his fingers fall into the indentations in the drywall. He stops. Her reading light illuminates the way to end the day; the sound of pages turning invite the escape.

He steps backward, two step, one. His fingers grip the cold metal. He tightens and tugs. One two three four. Left hand right hand. He breathes. The door is closed, he exhales. He releases. He steadies himself.

He grips the doorknob.

One two three four five. Five will set him free. Five will let him sleep. One two three four five. Cold sweat. Cold metal.

She calls for him, come to bed.

Coming, he says.

One two three four.

He opens the door.

He closes the door.

Face plate. Strike plate. Fingers and cold metal.

One two three four.

Forget something? she asks.

Light was on in the hallway, he says.

One two three four. He releases. Hand against the corner. Cold sweat seeps into drywall.

Come to bed.

Just a second.

Pages turn.

He opens the door.