I remember being awakened in the darkest hour of a new day. We had made love. Our chests were bare. The musk of intimacy permeated the air. Her face was disfigured and flushed, not from our shared experience, but from a painful one she was having alone. My hand touched her lower back, “What’s wrong my love?” Her silent sobbing ruptured into vociferous wails. “Babe, I just want to know who he is.” For a moment, I shrunk away. I removed my touch. This was a jab at my manhood, I thought. I am her man. I am father to her children. I am provider for her home. If anyone she should want to know, it should be me. But here we are, in the grip of darkness and she is playing mistress to a phantom, while in arms reach of me. I touched her again, in the only other way I knew – carnally. I hoped to erase the chasm that was created by this missing man. When the fever of night was broken, she was gone. No, not all at once; it took years. And it was late in the day when I realized the error of my ways. She wanted for herself what she had given me – fatherhood. I could be her man, her lover, the father of her babies, but I could never be her father. She wasn’t expecting me to be. That night, she needed me to hold her and just be there. She was vulnerable and I missed it. So occupied with myself was I that I failed to be the one she could expose herself to. I knew her breast and the curves of her honey colored body, but I was not acquainted with her.
It’s a new day now and it arrived like all the others before it. Again, in the darkest hour, I awaken. But this time I am not misappropriating vulnerability; I’m the one who’s vulnerable. There is something missing from my life and I’m sobbing quietly to see if anyone is awake to rescue me. I am searching in the dark, begging strangers who share this night with me to give me what I failed to give another. My nostrils sense not the perfume of ecstasy, but assaulted by the odor of dying dreams, mine and those of the men who surround me. My nakedness is shame. I need not to know who my father is; I yearn for a different nature – freedom. And when the fever of this night breaks, I too will be gone, hopefully better and not bitter.
You see, here’s how I missed it. She smiled as she raised her face in the warmth of the sun. She braided her hair to resemble the symbolic locks that define love. Her voice filled the hollows of cathedrals in the liturgy to the Invisible Reality of the Divine. In the late season of yesterday, she shared her body with me. But in the darkness, between the shift change of yesterday and today, she cried. She started her days in tears and ended them in smiles – a dichotomy that beguiled me. I only saw the smiles. And even when I saw the tears, I interpreted incorrectly. How ironic that I live her life now. Time, that son of a bitch, has betrayed me by aligning our experiences to finally sync. I want to wake her and tell her I am sorry and I understand. But she is gone and only the musk of her memory remains. And to give the virtue of my vulnerability to another seems adulterous. But what am I to do? I reached for her, and the place where she laid is cold, the imprint of her silhouette is faded. So I unburden to strangers in hopes that she will hear me. Maybe we’ll hold one another again. She left an intoxicating smell.