For Emma, from now and forever

Even though this wasn’t our first trip together, your hands were still wet with nervous sweat; something I found endearingly innocent about you. Between those brief moments when you weren’t nudging the gearshift I was able to take your hand, lay it on top of mine. I slipped the tips of my fingers under your plaid shirtsleeve, scaling over your watch, those uncountable dingy bracelets, searching for your skin.          I looked down to confirm what my fingers discovered, the recently scabbed scars climbing the length of your forearm. There was no shift in traffic to explain your instant jerk from my grasp. I dialed the volume knob to the right—blasting Ra Ra Riot as I dug through my bag trying to track down the half pack of Mayfairs I had left. Once the end had lit I rolled the window down, watched the smoke as it was sucked out. We drove in silence; four songs filled the cold, awkward air between us. I smoked the last of my cigarettes for an excuse to keep the window down, for the loud motorway to drown out the questions my mind was fighting my occupied mouth to ask, for the coldness to chill and remove any hint of the sweat that lined my forehead.

There are always things we don’t know about new people, new loves—things that take time to unveil. I can’t possibly understand what those scars meant to you, or what put them there, what memory, what fight, what tense moment in your life brought on those scars. I cannot even tactfully write out the scene from that day, our second time together and feel I have captured it in any justice. Please forgive me if I try to beautify your struggles, your secrets.

That night, after your work Christmas party, after I had two beers, five glasses of red wine, and three sips of an intolerable jack and coke, you watched me take my clothes off. I laid down on that rickety hotel bed, in my panties and tank top, my teeth still stained red from all that Merlot. You pulled me onto my back. I couldn’t open my eyes; I was drunk and my lashes were heavy with mascara. You kissed my neck, my shoulder, my stomach, and I didn’t feel drunk or tired anymore.

It’s hard to describe the sort of beauty I saw you in that night. Tracing your thighs with my lips, going over the other bits of history your body had to tell me. My eyes wander to your scars, to your vulnerabilities. You let me into that part of your past; you knew I wouldn’t run from it, or from you. There’s something gorgeous in those marks, some part of me wants to kiss them until each has become a memory, a mental map of your body. Three uniform slashes near your left wrist, a scattering of cuts on your right thigh, little tics on both hips. I know you are more than those scars, but I see them as openings—moments when you were too full to stay within the confines of your body. I’m not sure if it’s the writer in me that makes me love you with all of your past instabilities, or if it’s just my grotesque obsession for sadness that attracts me to the slits in your skin. I feel guilty for decorating those dreary moments in your life with my pitiful attempt at prose. The real reason I have to write this, and to write it this way is to tell you that all I think when I see your scars is how beautiful you are, and how much you mean to my life.

 

Christmas

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