Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)
By Chely Roach
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Back when I met my husband, and allowed him to chase me, I could feel his adoration like the sun on sand. It radiated. And though I loved him, something told me that if it could be measured in pounds or miles or degrees, his would far outweigh, outreach, out-burn my own. Now, I can’t help but wonder if there is a finite amount of fire—shared between two hearts—that slowly suffocates after the newness fades; after the rain comes.
Because the rain is pummeling me.
I turn off the shower, and pull my towel from the curtain rod above. It smells of soap and the faint trace of bleach. I pat my face dry, but hold it there for a while, my head resting on my hands. Sigh. After a few moments, I dry myself, before wrapping the towel around my hair. Carefully, I step out onto the cool tile floor.
Not too many years ago, he’d rush to the bathroom when he heard the shower turn off; he’d take the towel and systematically—tenderly—dry me. He’d cup my face with the towel, and then move to my arms, chest, and stomach. He’d lift my foot to the bathtub’s edge, working the towel up one leg, then down the other. I felt like royalty. When he was finished, he’d drape the towel across my back, wrapping it around me as sweetly as a mother would a child, but then kissing me with the unmistakable fierceness of a lover—a kiss drunken with the promise that nothing would tear us asunder. That small gesture melted me, and made me burn equally for him.
As I pull the brush through my hair, I crack the door to let the steam escape, and I wonder what he’s doing, and if he took these twenty minutes to forsake me. I wonder if hearing the shower faucet close made him want to dry me off and envelope me, or delete his online cache. I wonder if he will reject my advances again, or if he knows that I don’t even have to look anymore to know that he has fallen back into his adultery. I wonder if he even cares that I know.
Because I have known for awhile now.
I leave my nightgown on its hook, swing the door open, not truly expecting to see him there.
But he is. Frozen, I inventory the flaws of my flesh, wishing I had a fig leaf to cower beneath.
When he notices me, he smiles. I realize I am holding my breath, and my heart is throbbing behind my breast. But for all the wrong reasons. I exhale and extinguish the bathroom lights, finding the bed from the sliver of street light that always splits our bed into imaginary hemispheres.
So I allow him to know me, though I am convinced that his knowledge only goes skin deep.
With his weight on me, my mind wanders. I stare at the outline of our wedding cross, though all I really see is shrouded pictures—moving and still—of wanton women, young and ripe. I feel unattractive in their shadow. I feel squalid for offering myself to a man who desires and gives himself to an infinite brothel of two dimensional images in an isolated room. The shaft of light grazes his face, and I notice his eyes are closed. I feel I am the only one present.
Though I try to will them back, quiet tears spill and pool in my ears.
He leans down to breath into my neck, when his cheek brushes mine. His head raises, Are you crying? Knowing my voice will betray me, I shake my head. He circles the pad of his thumb across my left cheek, and then traces my right cheek with his own, my sorrow absorbing into his flesh. Lifting to his elbows, he searches my countenance in the dim light. My eyes, a silent soliloquy. My lips, weary of words.
He buries his face in my nest of hair, and we lay as still as stones. His hand is still holding my face, deflecting my tears. I feel his chest begin to shudder in small bursts, building in intensity.
I wrap my once-reluctant arms around him, cradle him. Because he now knows that I know.
Finally, he cares that I do.
And I finally know that he cares.
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