Ten Days of Awe

His arms. Blue veins skeining through pale soft skin, hands strong, fingers long. When we sit together, I let my fingers follow the thread of his arm, touching gently, until I reach the secret place, the faint echo I can feel. His pulse. Mine. He likes to wear hats. He has a woolen toque with a pom-pom he wears in winter. He puts his hand into the toque. It becomes a character, it talks, and I am three again watching Sesame Street, wanting to hug Grover.

At the moment of love, he asks me to look in his eyes, blue eyes, a blue that slaps, pierces. When it ends, he still doesn't know what colour my eyes are, says they're brown. (For two years, he was looking at someone else. It took a long time to get his eyes out of me, longer for the gash to heal.)

One Day of Atonement, I say, "I apologize for all the wrongs, known and unknown, that I have committed against you in the past year, in thought, in word, in deed." That's what the Days of Awe are. Days of reckoning with one's fellows before the ultimate reconciliation with God. Between us so much spoken, unspoken, wrenched up, sorted, analyzed, scripted. We joke about this apology of mine.

First, the accusation out of nowhere, a tiny moment weeks ago. Second, the counter-attack. He has it on authority from Hugh and Gail Prather and Thich Nhat Han that I have rent the space between us. (If I could just reach him, he immutable and large in his self-control on one side of the room, me on the other, small.) The third and final act in two parts.

         A)       The Apology (me, creeping slowly across the divide)
         B)       The Promise (mine, to live by the verbal contract we had established)

He was always self-conscious about his arms. In high school, he wore long-sleeved shirts to cover them. I love to touch them. Hide my hands in his sleeves. Sneak my fingers up, gently, so he doesn't notice. I don't want to risk his wrath.

Like coming up for air, or getting pulled out of a hat. He says people should stay together. People, not you and me. Not, you are for me, you are the one for me, I can't live without you, not all those things people say when they want to be with you. So we eat (I eat) Premium Plus crackers with smoked oysters (not Kosher) and drink (both of us) tomato juice in small glasses, and have sex. Because, he says, people should have sex, not you and me. Not I want you. Just, I want.

It's important to say the words to oneself, the Hebrew I barely understand, words with power without needing to be understood. I say the words, try to mean them, listen to the invisible choir descending like the voice of God, the angels, the cherubim, from on high, filling the room, stretching out the promise of redemption like a hand.

Dreams. Him foaming at the mouth, us having sex, me paralyzed by performance anxiety, his eyes fluorescent, his mouth distorted wolfishly. I haven't seen him for a long time.

Staying past happiness, past joy, staying with him in blind trust must count for something. I throw crumbs of past sins into the water to wash the slate clean, but still this beats under my arm, slides down the veins, turns the eyes brown.

Pascal wrote that it is better to believe than not, in case there is indeed something to believe in. I want to believe that it was not a mistake, he did love me, the me I am, for an instant. But cynicism says otherwise. My eyes are green, not brown. God only knows if pleas of colour-blindness are permitted.

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