A Storyby Joyce Carol Oates
What to make of loneliness. Can you imagine? Three-fifteen a.m. and you lie spread-eagled in bed in your cocoon of a bed in your ripe swollen cocoon of a body while I drive through the snowy drizzle querying myself about life.
Driving along a deserted boulevard. Yellow street lights high atop slender poles. Rain, snow. Mist. Wind. What to make of loneliness. Not anger, not rage, not the wish to die or even the wish to murder. I’m too exhausted for all that. Just loneliness. What to make of it. Aloneness. Can you hear me? Can you guess? Never. You are eight months pregnant now and lie sleepless beside my lover, your spine aching, your stomach bloated, you are a beached bewildered mammalian creature gasping in the air.
Can you guess at me? Never.
But do you sense me, do you fear me?
Three-sixteen a.m. on a Friday morning, or do I mean a Thursday night. I drive too fast, and then slow down, skidding on a patch of ice a quarter-mile from your bed.
My loneliness has turned sinister.
I can’t be trusted.
Your husband sleeps beside you and in the confused instant of waking he could not know—he could not possibly know—which woman lies with him beneath the covers.