I lie awake, the minutes after turning out my light, brain active, anticipating the drawing shade of sleep. I took Lorazepam, a mild narcotic. It numbs my brain, silences the concerns that shake me awake in the early hours of tomorrow. Sleep feels unlikely. I wait for the medicine to dissolve. I wait for my cat to come. My mind, busy checking through a list of obsessions planning to disrupt my night, to make me miserable—Did I forget to plan for a meeting this week? Are my kids social enough? Can we afford to replace our ancient couch? I send thought-waves into my darkened room, telepathy, beckoning my cat.
Usually he comes. Tonight, he does. The room is cold. I’m buried beneath my covers, the sheet pulled over my ear and balding crown like a hood, the comforter bunched over my shoulder and under my chin, my hands tucked beneath the pillow. Nothing exposed to the chill save a tiny swath of face. I feel his presence an instant before he hits the bed, then, gentle pressure on the mattress, a delicacy and grace reserved for Ninjas and felines. Purring, he settles beside my head expecting attention, petting.
Caressing the cat, my thoughts evaporate, my worries fade, my brain begins to turn off for the night, each lobe shutting down, one after another, until only a pilot light still burns. I rub his neck, his ears, his chest, whichever part he moves within reach of my one hand popping from under the covers. He circles once, looking for a contour to welcome his shape. He settles down on top of my hand. Seconds later, I’m asleep.