Erich traces his finger along my spine as I lie on my belly. The morning sun splinters through the gap in the curtains. I open one eye.
‘Morning,’ I say. My voice is sleep-croaky.
‘Sleep well?’ he asks.
I didn’t. Each moment I felt close to falling off, one leg twitched and jerked involuntarily. I rose in frustration from the bed numerous times for water, headache tablets, and the toilet. I drifted off only about an hour ago. I feel groggy, dull, verging on cranky.
‘No, not really,’ I respond as his finger draws an outline on my bare back.
‘Can you guess what I’ve written?’
‘Um, no.’ I wasn’t paying attention. ‘Do it again.’
‘Is it, “I love you”?’ I ask. I’m not sure, but that’s what he’d be most likely to write.
‘Not this time.’
‘Then I don’t know.’
‘If you roll over, I can show you,’ he says playfully. His eyes sparkle.
‘Erich, I’m tired.’ I push him away.
Inexplicably, Erich makes a noise, a roar. I turn over, sit up and pull the covers to my chin in one swift movement. I am breathless. He leaps from the bed. Knocks photos from the dresser. He grabs the bedside lamp.
‘Erich, what’re you doing? What’s wrong?’
He screams. I am reminded of those Tarzan movies, the black and white ones from my youth where he’d bang his fists against his chest as he’d screech his familiar cry. This is no movie. My heart races; I pant in fear as he holds the lamp high above his head.
I scurry out of the bed, reach for my robe and run from the room. Erich smashes the lamp onto the floor. The sound explodes in my ears. I scramble to the front door, tripping on the hallway table in my rush.
The sound of silence brings me to an abrupt halt.
‘Erich?’ The only noise is my pulse thumping in my neck. I look at my left foot; the pinky toe sits sideways and throbs in time with my heartbeat. It’s clearly broken. ‘Erich?’ I call again.
I limp towards our bedroom, open the door to find him in the foetal position on the bed, crying.
‘Erich? Are you OK?’
‘Dunno what happened. What happened?’ He’s shrunk in size; his voice is quiet, small. He sniffs.
‘I’m not sure either. Let’s get you cleaned up.’ His hands are bleeding from small cuts. As I clean his wounds, my foot balloons and turns reddish purple in colour; the toe itself is nearly black. I shower and dress, make an appointment later in the day for us both with our GP.
Erich’s in the kitchen, brewing coffee. ‘What happened?’ he asks again.
‘You flew into a rage. The lamp…’ my voice cracks. ‘…you were going to smash it over my head.’
‘What? No!’ He stares at me. Behind his eyes, he’s trying to piece it all together. He’s drawing blanks, I can tell.
I don’t respond. I let the silence creep over him.
‘I’m sorry,’ he says, finally. He wipes his palms on his trousers.
I shrug. Whoosh out a gushing breath. I don’t know what to say.