About once a year, I wake up in the middle of the night, look over in the dusk of our city cave and see her. I feel her presence as if newly discovered. All those parts that were once so intriguing appear as if I'd never seen them before. She's a stranger lying here with me. The outline of her body, her breath, the temperature of her skin -- these are all unknowns. She came into my life; now she's in my bed, naked. I suddenly feel naked too. Exposed. How did this happen? Who is she? Who is this person with whom I spend my entire unconscious life? What happens to us as we lay here beside each other, closeted in our dreams?
In the darkness, I can reach over and touch her warm skin, running my fingertips over the fuzz of her arm, the satin of her belly. She won't always be warm and neither will I. If it all works out as planned, we will spend eternity about 4 feet apart, locked in a box and buried. I won't be able to reach over to her then.
Aging and the arrival of children have hurtled us into the future. We hang on to each other in awe of the unfolding drama. But there are other things, too, that prove the passing years: the accumulation, the frenzy of nest building in the early days. Lamps and rugs and appliances. Knickknacks and apparel and books.
Even the coats of paint on the walls, even the accretion of pharmaceuticals in the medicine cabinet. Building like some choking weed, more and more -- until, one day, the little ones are gone and things grow quiet and we wonder why we dragged all this stuff into our lives in the first place. What is this massive assemblage, this gigantic encrusted shell we've been carrying on our backs? Well, it's us, isn't it?
And so, when she lies back on the percale, closes her eyes and stretches her arms over her head, revealing her bare bosom for the 300th time, sometimes I feel a tinge of nostalgia for what belongs only to us two. And when my insides let go, why shouldn't I, for a second, glance at the table beside us, the clock radio standing sentinel, the polished floorboards, the pillow casing, the closet door and the picture of the bird on the wall and say, "Wait a second, can we just stop here? This is good -- let's pause for a while."
But there's a massive hand waiting to sweep it all away, us with it. And there's only this moment between two former strangers, so familiar now we almost never look at it. That's what we have, and then it's gone.