“What do you mean?”
He touches my elbow. I stop and turn back to him. He slides me out of the way as an older woman eases past with her cart.
His eyebrows are raised and his face is open.
“Well, aren’t we? We’re together when we wake. We’re together all day. We’re together with your kids when they’re around. We cook and run errands and remind each other of this and that. And we sleep together. At least, we’re trying.”
“So, when my colleague asked how things were going and then she said ‘so you’re living with her,’ I thought about it. And, well, the answer is yes.”
I hadn’t really considered our arrangement, nor tried to name it. I have no need for labels or slots.
What I know is this: We met, we clicked, and I said yes – yes to spending time together, yes to the laughter, yes to this unanticipated chance, yes to our weekends however we can manage them.
My days were jammed at the time; his flowed one into the other according to their own rhythm some ninety minutes away where he teaches. Then the academic year had come to its close and he was available. Really available, though my life is something else again.
I’m never available. At least, I never feel available.
“Where did you go?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say. “I guess we’re living together.”
He lets loose with his surprisingly boyish laugh and we continue past mustard and salad oils, then through produce where we pick out plum tomatoes and a half dozen red potatoes, we stroll by the romaine and the chard, and we settle on an organic mix of baby spinach and arugula.
We chat in the check-out and he kisses my cheek. We load the car and he kisses my neck. We redirect the conversation to the latest recipe, and he kisses me.
I check the time on my cell as we are driving.
He has no need to check the time.
* * * *
After the nightly meal which is as spectacular as the one that comes before, after the lovemaking with no discernible beginning or end, after he stretches and groans and curls around me as I doze to the sounds of jazz, after desire coils up again deepening my wonder, after tracing his remarkable face with my fingertips which puzzles him – he stirs, and I confess to an admiration for the furrows that mark his forehead, the creases that curve vertically along the sides of his mouth, the silver stubble on his chin that he shaves with care so as not to scratch my upper lip after a morning in which I memorize his expressions that shift from drowsy to devilish, and from preoccupied to amused.
He offers me the look of a man in love who is unafraid to say the words we hope to hear, after his annoyance because he can tell that I am far away and annoyance of my own because it’s so, as he whispers, you’re writing in your head and I answer, yes.
After starting up again and letting go of words then dozing briefly, after irritation as I try to conceal the irresistible urge to write that wars with the need to stay right here and now, after confronting the same conflict encountered each of these precious mornings in sequence – wanting to allow myself this yes, to be swept up in yes, to taste yes in every moment because the moment may disappear as suddenly as it is born – I come to articulate what I crave and it is this: a truce among the governing factions in my head and the presence of a white flag of surrender, a Doppelganger with no evil intent but a ruthless ability to execute, a compromise in which I no longer carry the worries of the months to come, the months that are ticking down to no more pennies in the bank, to no more children banging through the house, to days and nights that could be so much more or so much less and there is no crystal ball in this, and all there is to count on may be the promise in a paragraph or two or ten dashed off and on the run.
And present, too, will be the man in worn jeans and soft T, the man who kisses my palm and my wrist and my fingers, the man who says he will not disappear, the man who sweetens my waking and inundates my dreaming, the man who does not wish to obliterate my writing but encourages me to live all the same, to write a script of shared conception in which he fills more than a single chapter or even two.
Yet my eyes plead as he leans into me again, hoping to kidnap my afternoon. I pull away and without speaking, ask for clemency. I must. It is time to write.
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