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January 21, 2022 - Inadequacy

When she comes, she rises beneath him, back arched against twisted sheets, her heart to his chest, and when her heart doesn’t feel his, she grieves that this is what it means to love him. She notices his eyes out the window, watching the night, watching the moonlight glisten on snow, watching the wind as it gathers layers of it and twirls the tiny ice crystals upward toward the sky.

He thinks about the love the night must feel for the moon, and he wonders why he can’t make his heart feel what hers can. He wonders this at the same time he comes, then he softens and collapses, landing gently on her, as gently as frost forms on glass. Breath heavy, sated, he rests his head against her shoulder, she strokes his scalp through the mess of his hair, and he closes his eyes. And, lucidly, he dreams:

When he was young, while exploring, he randomly found a rock on a creek bank, a gray clump of stones with glass in it. He thought he’d found a diamond in the rough. He thought God had placed it there just for him, and that he was going to be rich. He didn’t know then that it was concrete, rubble, discard. What he did know is that it was the first beautiful thing he’d discovered on his own, so he kept it. Everyday, he’d carry it in his pocket, pull it out, look at it, and think of all the things he was going to buy with his money when he took his rock to the bank. Then one day, he reached into his pocket, and his index finger went straight through a hole worn into the fabric. He searched wildly for his precious rock, his future riches, but he’d traveled too many paths through the woods that day, and he could no more find that rock than he could see the forest for the trees. He wished then he’d thrown the rock into the creek so that he couldn’t have lost it, so that, in the bottom of the creek bed, it would not have been affected by his carelessness, and he’d always know where it was. He cried that day—he’d been reckless, and he’d lost the most beautiful thing he’d ever owned. Much later in life, and in much the same way, she became the second beautiful thing he’d found, and he hadn’t lost her, but his fear was that it was only a matter of “yet.”

Sometimes, she stared at him like he was already a memory.

Sometimes, he stared at her, waiting for the punchline, because to him, she was too good to be true.

And if it feels too good to be true…

Sometimes, she reaches for him like he is already gone.

Sometimes, when she is in his bed, he cannot sleep because he is afraid she will disappear before morning.

Because a woman like her in the bed of a man like him is as wrong

as a sin on Sunday.

(He knows because he’s sinned against her)

But, still, she’s there, softly caressing his head, wading through wreckage of the man he means to be for her.

He falls off her and curls up beside her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers into her ear, “I love you the best I can love anything. I do love you the most.” He gives her the words like a gift, a consolation prize, and in his mind, it erases his inadequacy.

In her heart, she accepts them the same way a stone accepts the wear of the water.

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