I thought girls actually used pencils to darken lines beneath their eyes. The same pencils we used to take bubble tests. That seemed so brave to me. Like something a pirate would do. Lined up in the hallway, waiting to march out to the playground, I could see them leaned over sinks, drawing emphasis.
Girl 101. I studied it from the outside. Girls with their hair products, their Keds, their bangles. When Jimmy Stewart told Katharine Hepburn she was lit from within, I nodded. They all are. Every one of them. Shocking as a lighthouse though a moment before I had been alone at sea with the stars overhead.
My wife has potion bottles on every surface of our house. She’ll swab her skin and then press her wrist to my face. “Do you like this one?” And suddenly she smells like winter solstice. I can feel the snow beneath my boots and then, all at once, evergreens. Or she’ll lean down to kiss me before she leaves for work, and everywhere there is sandalwood.
“Why do you always take my photo before I have makeup on?” she’ll ask.
Because I can’t tell.
Because you are a lantern to me in every condition.
Not alien, exactly, but as an apprentice. That’s how I approached women. As a kind of nautical chart to set a course. A path of wonder.
Skin like cream.
I wish I had seen my wife pregnant. Not in the photos but in fact. I wish I’d eaten waffles with her after her labor. I can imagine it. The young hippie woman with her plate of waffles.
On Sunday, the 20th, she will be my longest marriage. Though we are only getting started. What is six years but a beginning? We’re still somewhere in the Pacific, getting a handle on the currents, on the rigging.
I woke once, with an idea of her, just an idea — a sketch really. A woman in outline, sitting at a small, round table, with coffee before her. One leg crossed over the other, and an arm raised toward me in greeting. A homecoming. The way she pulled me into her so that I couldn’t keep to the periphery. Safe from any collision. Safe from the bold fact of her. This inevitable woman. How she has drawn me over the decades. A line between us of story, and nets, and cities, and rivers. Of wild flowers and starlight. Of a cold room with deer just across the window pane. The dogs wakeful. The day so nearly broken. And I am awash with light from the woman beside me. It spills out of her, and cuts me. Look how I’m dashed with it. Glowing from my injuries.