October 10, 2008

by Cathy Borders

Nora and Todd are lying in bed. Their legs, French braided. His arms are around her, meaning she is lying on his right arm, cutting off his circulation, and his left arm clung ever tighter to her back, pulling her in to him, as close as they could be with delicate layers of fabric between them.

They are in the dark. Her eyes are closed, as are his. He needs these moments. He calls them a “recharging.” She often pushes him away. Because it is in these moments she feels farthest away from him. Unlike sex, where their consciousnesses could transcend their bodies, and unlike deep, philosophical conversations where she saw their words transcend their bodies (to dance, intertwine, make love overhead), in these moments of still hugging and holding she feels infinity between him and her.

When she first opens her eyes he appears to her at the far end of a tunnel. Gradually, as her eyes adjust to the light, he comes closer, advances, intensifies. But before the pin prick of light, before she opens her eyes, and the nano seconds when her lids flitter open, the gulf, the blackness between them is a materialization (as much as blackness can be) of the distance between them. She may know exactly how he takes his coffee, the things he thinks of when he sees a dog or a crucifix, but she cannot know what his anxiety feels like, how it approaches. He will never know the extent of her headaches, what pain feels like to her. And she cannot know what her headaches feel like to him, how he imagines them.

When he is not there she feels the presence of his absence. She conjures him, the qualities of him that she likes, into a fantasy. She can fill her mind with him, but she knows it is not him, this is how she feels the presence of his absence. The gaze of Todd is missing. She has nothing to be ashamed of with him gone, nothing to hide, nothing to try and articulate. When he is gone and it is just him and her within her mind, it is him as she has created him. It is him as she understands him. Him as she has translated him.

But here, in his arms, pressed against his chest, smelling him (what he cannot smell), she is so far away. Farther than a dream, farther than her own consciousness, her own ego. Already in between their words, their utterances, he must translate her sentence, her thought, and she cannot see this internal action. She can never walk through its fluctuating terrains. And yet he holds her, thinks their hearts are beating as one, thinks they are collapsing time and space together, on this bed.

And with this she cries. He thinks she is crying sweet tears of happiness. He sees her as a tender object, pondering temporality, full of love for him. She cannot tell him how absent she feels, how empty and alone. She smiles gingerly, he misinterprets, begins fumbling for her buttons, fondling her breasts. It does not take long for lust to erase this nebulous feeling of the void. The never satisfied void of physical desire is easier to deal with.


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