Roses

A letter to Ade.

June 2020

The sound I make with a damp t-shirt brings to mind red linoleum and the way my mother sighs. A snap does away with creases - my hands take the gesture directly from memory. Pegs rattle in a basket, a sound belonging to childhood, a habit home to another world. I do my laundry in Dutch.

 

Outside, the squirrels flit away from the rain, walking the tightrope-edge of the back fence. I watch the sun and final traces of wet snow come together on the plastic lawn. Real weeds have started to grow through it.

 

You watch me hang t-shirts and unknowingly witness an embodying act. I wonder if you've ever seen me more purely than in this moment. I wonder if you could understand this. Sometimes the language still separates, not you and me so much as me and my body. I can do all the talking - but in the living I occasionally stutter, feeling like it's the wrong time zone for me to explore the texture of your beard. This specific hesitation only exists in me. In other moments, I stand beside the bed, late at night or early in the morning, to dress or take a drink. You lift your hand, brush your knuckles along the crease at the top of my thigh, curving your wrist gracefully. You look at my skin without trepidation. I feel such a safety, it makes me forget we were once strangers, that we couldn't have been born on the same soil.

 

This forgetting is wordless. It smoothly irons out my stutter. Our bodies know each other in ways words could never inspire and in this I find volumes of love, a reassuring sense of possession. The warm skin of your neck smells like indulgence and wilful suspension of disbelief. Nothing could touch us here.

 

But the words return, as they always do, and I find I cannot live without them. They are the tools with which to transcribe the sinking of the bowels, the pulling of the ribs, whether this goes inward to my own reasoning or outward to yours.

"I love you", I say, and my torso contracts.

"I love you", you say, and my neck loosens.

 

If not for these words, my chest would be a stoppered jar full of lightning, insusceptible to conduction. If not for their simplicity, you would be unable to catch on to the charge that they hold. These words are the hardest to find, all the more effective for their bluntness. But does it not make sense - for purity to be conveyed only by the plainest of messengers? I offer them as precious flowers, arranged as well as I know how, trusting the wordless part of you will delight in their sweetness.