doesn't the body betray us

Thomas gets up in the middle of the night sometimes and doesn’t come back to bed for hours. Just as I am rising, it seems, he will return. We will cross the bedroom threshold in opposite directions, silently and without acknowledgement. I stay in my studio during the day. Sometimes I can hear him moving around in the house. He will bang cabinet doors shut and drop a pot on the floor. I am convinced he does this to get my attention. To see whether I will come running back into the house, like I once would have done, to his aid. But I am tired. And find this tedious. These little games.

One night, not too long ago, I took the bait. A sudden crash – a glass falling to the floor. I hear it shatter. I come out to the kitchen and he is standing there, his feet bare, with the shards of glass all around him. Don’t move, I tell him and go for the broom. He stands still, his arms extended like a long-suffering Christ, as I sweep up around him. He watches me crouched down brushing the bits of glass into the dustpan.

You are beautiful, he whispers to the top of my head. I stop what I am doing, look up at him. You are, he says. His eyes are sunken. His skin is ashen.

Outside, it is dark. It is still. The radiator makes a steady knocking sound and then a mournful whistle.

Carefully I finish sweeping up the last bits of glass and empty the dustpan into a paper bag. I fold the bag, place it by the back door, to go out with the trash. I hang the broom and dustpan back on its hook in the pantry closet. I can feel his eyes on me.

I go back to where he is standing. Do not meet his eyes. I kneel. With my hands, I work slowly – his ankles, his calves, his thighs. And then with my mouth. I draw him down to the floor.

The sounds of his breathing – ragged and quick – and the familiar ways his hands move on me – practiced, automatic – they hit their marks, but bring tears. Doesn’t the body betray us, I think.

When I awaken, I am alone on the kitchen floor. My knees ache. I draw them up and rub them with my hands. My fingers come away covered with tiny specks of glass dust, shimmering.