He sleeps with a gun under his pillow. When I first noticed that, I tried to do the same. It seemed sensible and somehow heroic. As though even in his sleep he was thinking about protecting us. It made me picture him as an old-fashioned cowboy - sleeping with one eye open, always on watch.
My gun is smaller that his - it's a ladies' gun, he says. As first I was unsettled that there was such a thing as a ladies' gun - as though it could have its place on the women's floor of a department store. I tried to imagine that - next to small shoes and slim clotheres there was a shelf of lightweight guns. I laughed the image off - the laugh was a little nervous and forced, but it blew those thoughts away for a while all the same.
Guns are normal now, and the kids, who've never known it any different, spin the cold metal casually on their fingers when it's their turn to sit watch.
He never told me to sleep with my gun under my pillow. But when I saw that he did it, and I thought about how it made sense, I did it myself the next night.
My pillow was old and worn flat and I always had to fold it over just to get it to prop up my head. But still, through that, I could feel the metal digging into the bones of my skull. I wriggled a little to see if I could get it to fit into the hollows of my cheeks or under my jaw. But there was no way to be comfortable, and the more I moved around, the more I became convinced that I'd knock the safety off and somehow shoot a hole clean through my shoulder and into my heart.
I lay awake all that night, thinking I'd get used ot it, or that the part of my head being prodded with the gun would just get numb. I thought I had to try for at least one whole night. Maybe it just took a little getting used to. But when the sun came up, I was still cursing the hard edges of the gun and my sensitive skull.
I climbed out of bed right then, even though I didn't really have to be up for hours. I slipped the hated gun into the fraying waistband of my underwear. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my crazed, sleep-starved eyes. I watched them as I brushed my teeth and brushed my hair. Then I was clean and fresh and I had brushed the awful night off me. It was a new day.