I think a lot about the frailty of flesh. I’ve seen it first hand. There was the year of my brother’s slack limbs and uncooperative ribcage, its rising resting, no longer balloons inflating with breath, the year I was handed my husband in plastic film canisters, to which my first thought was to wonder about those bygones of print, where they came from in these days of the digital. And there is too my own, body charted over the years, that windless December day 157 sepia toned slides of my brain were mailed to me in a white windowed envelope, the seven frames of my neck taken years earlier, a series of jagged peaks trying to wear smooth. Two of my lungs, wistful, in the way of hand tinted photos.
It is there the body closes, like all bodies do, ribs around a heart like two hands saying no. And so when I think about the frailty of flesh, I think too about love, the way it could sometimes be described as a dagger, because it’s always searching for the soft parts. And when we love, we feel it, no less a palpable thing than when my palm scrapes concrete, when, sliding on an icy patch in a parking lot, I catch myself before the fall, the arms jarred. It makes our heart beat differently, our breath sometimes startle, butterflies in the stomach, or that ache, that gut punch ache when it’s gone. When it’s just gone.
There is a man I would tell if I could of how he had made my heart ache, not as metaphor, but as something in the body, he made my heart ache, how I left from that house that last day with something like splinters on my tongue. They were shaped like oak trees; they tasted something like regret.
Tonight, snug on the couch near the glow of lights on the Christmas tree, my body is at rest. It’s peaceful. The sound of wind is all I hear outside. There’s the cold of a winter night, the hard edges of ice glistening in the street, tail lights of planes twinkling, the slow and quiet fall of a few white snowflakes. There’s hot cocoa in my hands, sugar and Irish Cream on my tongue, tiny marshmallows melting, the taste of them, sweet and disappearing.
But that day had tasted like regret. Not that we were parting, but that we were not parting in peace. It made my heart, that fragile center of all this fragile flesh, hurt. Oh, how it ached.