The problem rears in the most unkindly moment. I am there, I am reaching out to grasp what I can of her, to feel my jolt abroad, tympanic in her taut neck, to sniff out my fantasy in the maze of scents, to catch her sigh when she receives the last of me, and giving it over, all of it, plus the weave of percale, plus the weightless springlight striping the blinds, giving it over to the unity of spasms when then, just exactly, the transformation happens. I am there and I am not and the bodily process arrives at an end without me — so many cells of myself, foreign emissaries, riding the waves into her body.
Later, her obvious joy sends me back further on myself. After such intimacy the isolation is oppressive. I want her to know where she can find me. But the message I send reads like an oracle and her playful mood makes play of its meaning.
“You grew big with my love,” I say.
And she: “You, too.” She touches me there. “And will again.” The droopy head nods to my navel.
Still I want her to know the place. I want to lead her there, show her the layout, make coffee, sit, discuss redecoration, expansion, demolition of walls. Her grin, though, is a born leader. I follow, pretending to lead.
Touching her belly: “And were it not for modern medical magic, our love would soon make you grow too big for your britches.”
Her laughter provides only temporary shelter, a fluttering pavilion suitable for the jousters of romance. But ours is no transient infatuation. We seek a permanent dwelling wherein we may come home to ourselves. Otherwise, the possibility of leaving might tempt me to evade my problem.
I take counsel with myself. This is, after all, your problem, I say, a muddied projection from some smoldering trash heap inside you. No need to dirty her with it. Call up a voice from the interior night and have it answer. Kind will answer kind.
I invoke. A black rag wheels up the shaft, crashing blindly against the walls, knocking soot loose that falls in brown-black glitter. It perches on my finger upside-down. Its screeches are radar waves that come to words in my mind.
“So what is it?? Speak your problem.”
“You know. Don’t play politics by making me say.”
“All right, it’s this: At the peak of passion you hallucinate. Your lover grows immense in your eyes. And that terrifies you.”
“ ‘Immense’ is too small and ‘terrifies’ too big. Say that it discomposes me.”
“Quibble, quibble,” it shrills. “Do you want a solution or not? Okay. Get this down. Keep your eyes closed, be blind like me. Obvious, huh? What you can’t see doesn’t exist.”
My feet stumble in the footprints of the blind. Eyes see farther closed, as far as imagination reaches. I look just to keep her expansion within the range of vision. In the afterwards, her concern feels like recriminations: “Are you all right?” “What’s the matter?” “Did I do something wrong?” “Is there a problem between us?”
I analyze. Didn’t Grandfather grow? And the black man with the moon face? Infantile fancy: Tell a four-year-old that a dime will buy twice as much candy as a nickel and he’ll swear by Mother’s bosom the dime’s bigger. Grandfather, little more than six feet tall, wore the ceiling for a hat brim when I looked up at him. To this day the old photograph seems a distortion that shows him half the size of the Corinthian column on the porch. And the black man once — his face extended in a panoramic wall around my own, his dominion of night all around me, until the tears reduced him to a handful. Giants of folklore by stone or sword were similarly cut down to size. Bounds are all they need: proof of their mortality, the white border on an old snapshot, hurt.
Throughout the house I discover places for a happier practice of the principle. Yet all become the scenes of failure. Cubby or closet, corner or crevice — she bursts the bounds I give her and I suffocate under the press. Now she avoids the mention of a problem.
As I watch the window from a sleepless Sunday nap, a bumble bee dusts the screen with pollen, trying to get at flowers printed on the curtain. Presently it accepts the futility of persistence and abandons the effort for the wide world where bright colors never betray a promise of nectar. The message it leaves behind — yellow grains caught in the weave of wire — I at last decipher. I wake my love and go in search of a picnic basket.
Don’t betray me, bright colors.
Her eyes bloom in the sunshine of the meadow I take us to. I spread out the cloth before grassy hills subordinate to the hugeness of distant mountains, subordinate in turn to rarefied sky. She is surprised at her hunger, eats lustily, is further surprised when my lips and hands suggest intimacy. She trembles small for want of cover as I open her clothes to the sunshine.
Bright colors, don’t betray me.
Don’t betray me. Among green grasses, mountains of purple, azure skies, accept the tint of flesh. We blend indistinguishable among dominant colors, subordinate both to the palest shade. We hide in your spectrum behind invisibility. In black and white equally we blend. Don’t betray us.
Hovering above her and the moment almost now come to pass, I fear opening my eyes, betrayal, as I would the forbidden door. Then her cry comes up to me, betrayal, a voice moaning from deep within: “Open.” They bud open barely to see, betrayal, her full-blown eyelids stirring in the breeze. I’ll fix on those, I say, fix on those, but the wind rises and carries my gaze across her body. Already her hair has become the grass, her shoulders are turning to hills, and her breasts rising higher, higher.
The cry of a bird above offers a route of escape. The ground stolen from under me, betrayed, I can only look to the sky for refuge. Lifting, I feel my body breaking free of her gravity, gaining buoyancy, spreading, subtilized to vapor as expansive as she. I fear I’ll drift away from her, ascend to cool, desolate places, but instead my contact broadens across her entire surface. My particles run rampant with her heat.
I might increase forever were it not for the thought of love, around which I begin to condense. I separate into water and air and my rain falls in torrents over her. For the first time I am so clarified that I can behold her purely. And now I see my smile in her pools reflected.