Word jumble

It’s the middle of the night. And you are turned toward me in the dark, listening. I am describing the path to you. How much I loved a woman two decades ago. How I kept sort of showing up to something deeply confusing. Like discovering that you have blood on your hands and worry it might be your own. You know, romance in your twenties. How you want things with a fierceness you can barely articulate but aren’t really certain what those things are. The wanting is so much.

I want you.

That last word was always hardest for me.

Most of my life has been a battlecry of I WANT.

I’ll never get this story told the way I mean it.

Do you see? I am more myself because I love you.

I don’t regret the tantrums. The miscalculations. I was headed in my fractions toward something whole.

You told me that you are always a little worried that I will say whatever is in my head. “At any moment, I know you might say anything.”

And I might never get near the telling. I might sidestep into the wrong story.

When you leave the house at 5 a.m., I listen for the door to close, and open again when you remember your keys. I watch for the light of your phone as you navigate the house in near silence. It’s like a love song. Like marriage. To ninja your way through the darkness in silence to let the other woman sleep.

Sometimes she does.

But often she listens for you. Watches the light recede. Feels the dogs resettle the bed around her. Loves you a little harder from this distance.

Once I met a girl whose collarbones hurt me.

A girl whose head I shave, bent over the sink, the razor huddled against her tiny ears.

A girl I think of as mine. And hers. And no one’s.

Marriage is all these things. Leaned into your right hip, the woman playing her piano from stage. It’s midnight and you leave for work in four hours. Urgently alive.

Yours. Mine. No one’s.

I’d write you a love song. And get all the words wrong. And hum a few bars, waiting to get a little closer to it. Once a girl fell into me laughing and I held both of us up. Her eyes darkened and she had her arms around my neck. Her face turned up to mine.

I want you.

Simple. So simple. And not at all what I hoped to say.

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