I wake up and Brian is sitting on the edge of my bed. I’ve been waking up at 7 o’clock every morning this week. Sometimes even earlier. The room has this weird, ominous glow, as though warning me it’s too early to wake up. I can see shapes but not lines, objects but no definitions. I am supposed to be sleeping, so the world has no obligation to present itself in any way resembling reality. I think of this story I read as a child in which a young girl, Ida, wakes up on a Sunday at the sound of church bells alerting her of the morning service. She notices it’s darker than usual, but quickly gets dressed and runs out of the house without looking at the clock.
When Ida arrives at church she doesn’t recognize anyone, except the woman next to her, Josephine Kerr, whom she remembers died a month ago. She suddenly realizes that the church is filled with dead people.
This is a service for the dead, Ida thinks. Everybody here is dead, except me.
Josephine Kerr warns Ida to run for her life right after the benediction. As she leaves, the dead chase her from the church, tearing off her hat and coat in the graveyard, but the sun is rising and the dead disappear. Later that day, Ida wonders if it was all a dream. She returns to the graveyard to find her hat and coat torn to shreds.
It was simple. Ida had actually gone to the earlier church service, held exclusively for the town’s dead community. She overstepped her boundaries. She crossed some invisible line between one reality and another, and suffered nearly fatal consequences due to her inability to decipher where that line is drawn.
Reading that story as a child, I was angry with Ida. I thought she was being foolish, inattentive. I wondered how she couldn’t pick up the cues—the bare streets, the darkness before dawn. I wondered where her parents were and why she didn’t wonder the same thing. I wondered what a benediction was (I still don’t know) and why she had to wait for it, risking her life, instead of escaping the minute she realized she was in a church full of dead people.
But let’s leave Ida for a moment and return to my shadowy bedroom.
“Hi,” I say to Brian. My voice is grainy with sleep. I clear my throat and push the warm clump of blankets further from my face. “You’re here.”
He smiles at me. He is dressed CAP-A-PIE in camouflage, a matching jacket and pants. I notice he is wearing his boots. Anyone wearing shoes near a bed makes me nervous. I know shoes mean the person is going somewhere, most likely soon.
“You’re wearing the camo,” I say.
“You know I was wearing the camo,” he replies. His voice is hollow, like a fuzzy tape recording of itself. But then again, it always sounds like this. We stare at each other for a moment, the way two people do before they are about to embark on a voyage after which their lives will not be the same. I move my knee so it brushes against his thigh. Only a blanket and a sheet separate us. In the cloudy remnants of night, this is what I believe.
Of course, Brian is not actually sitting on the edge of my bed. He has been dead for sixteen years—as of today. If I ever tell you something like, Brian is sitting on the edge of my bed, you should realize I'm on the other side of what I will now refer to as the Ida line—the barrier between two realities that is as obscure as the titles of my books in the darkness of 7 o'clock on an April morning.