the other side of heartbreak
[...] If he'd forgive her bagpipe udders and estuary leg veins, she'd forgive his unheroic privates, and they could pool their wretched mortalities and stand by each other for better or worse.
I find myself moving toward you through the grass, carrying a new glass of wine, and when your eyes avert to mine, it feels like some piece of machinery has just seized in my chest. Like worlds colliding. As I draw near, you take the glass out of my hand as if you had previously sent me off to get it and smile with an easy familiarity, like we've known each other forever. You try to introduce me to Dillon, but the skinny-jeaned artist, now effectively cockblocked, makes his excuses and leaves.
Then it's just the two of us standing in the shade of the hedgerow, and my heart is going like mad. I say, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but it looked like you might need rescuing," [...]
I only remember pieces of what was said in our first moments together. Mainly how you laugh when I tell you I'm an atomic physicist, but not derisively. As if the revelation truly delights you. I remember how the wine had stained your lips. I've always known, on a purely intellctual level, that our separateness and isolation are an illusion. We're all made of the same thing - the blown-out pieces of matter formed in the fires of dead stars. I've just never felt hat knowledge in my bones until that moment, there, with you. And it's because of you.
The first kiss plummeted him down a hole and popped him out into a world he thought he could get along in - as if he’d been pulling hard the wrong way and was now turned around headed downstream. They spent the whole afternoon among the daisies kissing. He felt glorious and full of more blood than he was supposed to have in him.
When the sun got too hot, they moved under a lone jack pine in the pasture of jeremy grass, he with his back against the bark and she with her cheek on his shoulder. The white daisies dabbed the field so profusely that it seemed to foam. He wanted to ask for her hand now. He was afraid to ask. She must want him to ask, or surely she wouldn’t lie here with him, breathing against his arm, his face against her hair-her hair faintly fragrant of sweat and soap ... "Would you care to be my wife, Gladys?” he astonished himself by saying.
There are some nights when Sid is dozing there that she feels frightened. She puts her hand on his chest to feel his heart. She puts her cheek close to his mouth to feel the breath. She did the same to Sally and Tom when they were children, especially with Tom, who came first. She was up and down all night long in those first weeks, making sure that he was breathing, still amazed that this perfect little creature belonged to them. Sometimes Sid would wake and do it for her, even though his work as a grocery distributor in those days caused him to get up at five a.m. The times he went to check, he would return to their tiny bedroom and lunge toward her with a perfect Dr. Frankenstein imitation: "He's alive!" followed by maniacal laughter. In those days she joined him for a drink just as the sun was setting. It was their favorite time of day, and they both always resisted the need to flip on a light and return to life. The ritual continued for years and does to this day. When the children were older they would make jokes about their parents, who were always "in the dark," and yet those pauses, the punctuation marks of a marriage, could tell their whole history spoken and unspoken.
The husband watches the wife sleep. The house is nicest whenever she is asleep because he worries less about her and knows for a fact that she is resting, and for a little while at least he manages to forget that she is dying. This is more bearable than watching her lie awake and worry about dying. The husband is unsure if he has loved anyone in his life, at least in the way he thought he would love when he was younger, but now he thinks that maybe this is what love is supposed to be; you build a life around a person and when they threaten to go, you worry and worry that they will take you with them. If this is it, then he would prefer to go back to being a stranger to his wife.