Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
"I like it. I like looking at you."
"You might like it, but it's not an invitation."
"I know that. But I can still like it."
I roll my naked body to the edge of the bed and spread out like a starfish, away from my husband and the touch of his hand. It's not that my marriage has cooled. It's just that I'm on fire.
The hot surge washes over me every night like the thrash of a wave, abrupt and rolling, a seemingly endless flow. I am covered in sweat, head to toe, behind my knees, in the small of my back. I raise my head, glance over my shoulder and check the time. The digital radio flashes 2:53, 2:53.
"Two-fifty-three?" I say to myself. It's the street number of my childhood home. That's strange, and I think of my mother. She still has these flashes from time to time, and she's damn near 80. When will it end?
Of us four siblings, I'm the most like her. In body and spirit, I guess. "Mini-Mom," I am called, and my siblings laugh when they say it – especially my two sisters. Their time will come, if it hasn't already. They don't really say.
As a teenager, I watched the sweat pop out on my mother's upper lip, and bead on her brow, and knew I was doomed. "Woo-ee!" my mom would say, waving one palm in front of her face, a tiny geisha with her Japanese fan.
Now, I'm Joan of Arc. On the stake. Put to the torch. My feet are being held to the fire and I'm suffocating in the conflagration. Whatever. My mind reels; the heat makes me nauseated. I'm going to be sick. I yank my nightgown over my head and toss it in a heap on the floor.
"Woo-ee," I say, "I'm burning up."
I sound just like her; the same words, the same intonation, the same melting core. I roll onto my side and my husband's hand creeps across the bedsheets to caress the half-moon of my hip, in sympathy or in hope, I don't really know and I'm too hot to care.
"Don't," I say, trying to keep some levity in my voice. After all, he's only trying to help. "It's not an invitation."
Minutes later, the flood breaks, the wave ebbs and a chill is left in its wake. Cold sweat. I shudder and reach for the sheets.
I try to sleep but my mind's eye opens again to the image of my mother, standing on the threshold of our garden door on the coldest of winter days, her blouse unbuttoned, chest exposed, fanning her damp body with the gaping fabric. "A fan, that's what I need."
And I've said it out loud.
I believe in personal manifestation, and so does my husband. Like magic, a ceiling fan appears, straight from the hallowed halls of Home Depot. He has rushed out to buy it, and spends the whole of one afternoon standing on a ladder, arms stretched to the ceiling, pretending to be an electrician. He cusses.
The fan is dark wood, in the British colonial style, and matches our bed. "Good choice," I tell him. Good karma. He smiles, happy to have solved my problem.
What was it the relationship guru John Gray wrote in his manifesto, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? Women talk through their problems, men rush in to solve them. My husband has said nothing, but I understand he has been speaking to me in silent "menglish." How sweet. It must be love.
The fan he has bought is remote-controlled, meaning I can alter the speed from the comfort of our bed. The next time I awake at 2:53 with the surge, I reach for the control and press Medium. The fan stirs and the blades stealthily begin to rotate, silently swishing the air, pushing it down, a feather to my skin. I like this; it is utter bliss. I fall back to sleep.
The whir of the fan is soundless, and doesn't wake my husband. He has solved his own problem, I see, so maybe wasn't speaking menglish after all. Still, it is love.
At 6:30 a.m. I step out of bed, reach to the floor for my nightie and put it on. I think about the fan and the difference it has made to my nights.
"I know it's a little thing," I say, "but I'm going to write about the fan and send it in."
"Then you'll have to sign your name."
"What?" I say, laughing. "There's no shame."
It occurs to me that maybe my husband doesn't want his name attached to mine. What's the issue? Is menopause still a taboo? How funny.
I sigh inwardly and walk down the stairs to feed the dogs and make the morning's strong coffee. Menopause be damned. I'm not giving up my caffeine. Or my red wine or my dark chocolate.
I am, after all, my mother's daughter. If I make it to her age, I only have 28 more years of this to endure. I can do it.
Shauna Clinning lives in Oakville, Ont.