Premonition: The sense that something terrible is going to happen.
Call it a strange feeling, like fate tapping your shoulder. You turned away from the guy who stared at you at the end of the bar, and found Tom sitting alone in the corner instead.
You aren’t sure why, but you knew, in a soul-deep sense, that you needed to move in the opposite direction of where you had been heading, fast.
Somehow, you ran into Tom, and stopped running when he held you in his arms. And he stopped running, too. You both knew it was right.
Your mom called it listening to your heart. Your father called it following your gut.
You just know it’s saved your ass. That time Tom had the lump and you made him go the doctor. They said catching it so early saved his life.
Today, you have a precognition something terrible is going to happen. You’d like to stay in bed, putting your grandmother’s old Dresden plate quilt over your head like a wall of calico-printed shields. You wish you knew what the big bad was, but you only know it involves Tom. And because of Tom, you.
You and Tom shouldn’t have fought last night, not with him so far away. Not over something as stupid as the bills. It’s only money.
You said he spends too much. He said you drink too much.
Now you see, like a thick wall of thunderheads on a prairie horizon, what you did was the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Proprioception: This sense gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts.
This is what makes you know that marrying Tom, becoming one, wasn’t just words said before that judge. You are one, and right now that part of you named Tom is moving, beyond the edge of your bed, the limits of your world.
He’s in Chicago, another trip to calm another client. When something is on fire, they pour Tom on it.
Maybe he missed his plane. Maybe his taxi was late. Maybe he hooked up with a killer at the hotel bar last night, after the fight on the phone. Maybe he went out for a drink and never came back, hit on the head in some strange alley with mangy black cats and needles and garbage cans, an alley you close your eyes and see, complete with slumped over Tom in a puddle, blood mixing with muddy water.
Your Tom is like your left leg. Your right arm. You try to move your Tom, and all you feel is numb. You try to call his cell phone again. And leave another voicemail.
Equilibrioception: The sense that allows you to keep your balance. This sense also allows for perceiving gravity.
If you crawled out of bed and tried to stand, you know you would fall down. And it isn’t just about the wine you drank last night—too much, too fast, alone. The Merlot that Tom likes with pasta and you should have saved to drink with him. You could have made him shells and cheese.
The gyroscope inside your head, that tilting now, shows you the world is upside down, and maybe instead of the bed being on the floor, the bed is actually hanging from the ceiling, and you are somehow held aloft by the power of the strong binds of that quilt. If you try to put a foot on the rug, you might go flying down, get swatted by the flailing arms of the ceiling fan.
Your sense of the gravity of your situation is clear: you’re in dire danger.
Not just you. Both of you.
If you could only wrap your arms around him, press him close, you’d touch the ground.
Chemical Receptors: The kinds that make you feel the urge to vomit, for example.
That sour wine in the back of your throat is coming back like a bad blind date who calls the next morning. You can taste words mixed with the wine:
I’m not sure I ever want to see you again. I hate you right now. I can’t be with a liar. You know that.
You sounded like your mother. Tom isn’t like your Dad. You should have waited until he was home, spoken with him face to face. It would have been different.
There was no final I love you. The acid taste makes your tongue burn. You want to throw last night up in the toilet, and flush it down.
Taking careful steps, holding yourself up by the wall, the door, the bathroom sink, the tub—you try.
Thirst: Needing liquid.
You know you should drink some water, make the dry desert in your mouth go away. But you savor the denial. Your punishment for what you said to Tom.
Hunger: Needing nourishment.
That muffled howl is protesting in your belly, wanting you to comfort the emptiness yawning inside. Food’s been a good friend, your body whispers. Have some Ben and Jerry’s. The only thing in the fridge is Tom’s Cherry Garcia. You can’t eat that.
Pressure: The sensation of things pressing down on the body, or tightness.
The quilt now weighs as much as a Chevy truck. You can’t stay in bed any longer.
Thermoception: Ability to sense heat and cold.
Your fingers are ice cold, and your chest feels hot. If Tom were here, he’d tell you to breathe. Just breathe. He always tells you that, and it works. But he’s not here.
Tension: Sensation of…tension. In the muscles, tautness, stiffness.
Walking is good. Everything quivers, up your ankles, your calves, your thighs, ripples in your abdomen like waves on a lake. If he doesn’t call soon, he’ll never call.
Maybe he isn’t calling because he can’t.
Magnetoreciption: The ability to detect magnetic fields, mainly useful in providing a sense of direction when detecting the Earth’s magnetic field. Maybe having to do with ferric iron in the human nose.
You joke that you can feel when his car turns into the neighborhood. Something lurches inside, and your pulse quickens. It isn’t your ears. You know it in the pouring rain, when you couldn’t possible hear an engine. Maybe it’s the stud you have, not in your nose, but close enough.
He wonders why you have his plate fixed, why you’re at the door.
You don’t feel his car now.
It starts in your throat, and moves up to your head. A headache, built of all the words you wished you hadn’t said. The words you wished you’d said instead. The ball of prose has settled behind your eyes, unraveling itself and spooling in a loop.
The pain throbs, and you roll the script.
I love you.
I didn’t mean it.
Come back to me.
Just come back.
Just be okay.
Even if you hate me,
Just be okay.
Time: No singular mechanism has been found that allows people to perceive time. But somehow we do.
You haven’t seen the clock, but you know, as if your own heart was ticking the seconds, that it’s later than midnight.
That the plane was due this evening. You can’t know the arrival time because he never told you the flight number. Some plane from Chicago. Evening spreads and pools, to the far fingers of meaning, maybe until dawn.
Is he late yet? You tell yourself there could have been a storm. Something with the plane. So many reasons for delay.
Not that Tom’s car is still at the airport.
Not that Tom’s car is parked somewhere, in front of another house. A hotel. Another apartment.
You avoid putting names and addresses on where Tom might be.
You wonder how much time it will take before you no longer feel like this, on the sword point, waiting to fall down. Or be lifted off.
He’ll come home.
He’ll never come home.
Just in time.
—Elizabeth Archer writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill Country.