Like a buzz resonating from his skin,
his slender, angled form leaning inward -
like a child's hand closing as a finger touches its palm -
says to me: "I can't remember the feeling of skin on skin anymore,
the simple pressure of arms around me,
hands at my back. I cannot even imagine it, so please, give me the reality."
His dark blue eyes are still and bright, looking near me, though rarely at me,
as if even eye contact is too sweet an intimacy,
saying, "Tell me I'm loved. I can't promise I'll believe you;
I may even argue the point,
but tell me anyway. Be patient; I need this."
He needs to know the haven of kindness, to be touched gently
so that, finally, he loses all impulse to debate.
He needs a woman whose love would take the phrase "...but on the other hand..."
right out of his tentative, upward-curving, red mouth.
In early conversations, he hinted at long untended wounds.
My instinct was to solve his puzzles, to lead him into a 'brighter side' of things,
but light feels like an interrogation, rather than a sunrise, if it's forced.
If I hadn't been watching his face, I would have missed it,
the momentary glimmer of sadness and solitude, the weary toll of miscommunication.
He had only needed to be heard, to own his disappointment and frustration
so that he could begin to release it.
'Forgive me, please' I thought, but 'don't walk away, don't walk away.'
In his very small apartment a few nights ago,
he offered me a seat in his only chair, with quiet hospitality,
as he pulled his old-timey bed out of the wall and sat down.
We talked for two and a half hours about writing and philosophy and human nature
and with each curve of conversation
he pulled down another book from his shelf with a bright eyed, smiling,
"Oh, I wanted to show you this one part... you have to hear it..."
Rich, winding conversation, this is when
his love of the phrase "on the other hand" comes in handy.
His voice is soft and earnest, and a little shaky,
as if a constant low wind trembles through him, catching his words
and sending them out into the world.
As the night passed between us, the light in his room seemed warmer.
Our muscles relaxed in this small, shared space.
Of course, as he lay back and smiled, talking softly,
I didn't see any good reason to ever go back
to my interestingly decorated but nevertheless lonely apartment.
I don't say this out loud, but I've noticed
that I've started to miss him during the day.
Of course, I say, I miss what he represents to me; I miss the idea of him,
because who wants to stick her neck out?
I crave his company like a good book accidentally left behind at home,
or a perfect day, sunny and easy,
that I vividly remember in the middle of November and wish I could relive.
The truth is, I've sent him emails along with family and close friends,
just so that I could end a note to him with "Love, Elizabeth".