34 years old but still living in the same body that first received the tickling warmth of his breath on the lobe of my ear; his lips’ tender press in the crease of my neck. My same back to his belly. My same belly filled, that night nearly 10 years ago, with the warmth of grilled shrimp from Lauriol Plaza, of margarita on the rocks, of laughter from our late-night viewing of Will Farrell and Luke Wilson. The same skin above my hip glinting with sparks beneath his fingertips’ soft trace. This is the same neck that turned that night for the first time toward his, our mouths parting and opening to a possibility of us that made me spin in place in that single-digit weeknight dark.
That night nearly 10 years ago we stood at the landing next to the door of the bedroom I rented, and in the fog of light from the parking lot outside, his lips brushed mine in parting. He could have stayed but he said goodbye, and the chivalry in his departure further warmed my heart.
In 10 years, he has moved from someone else’s landing and someone else’s couch in someone else’s home to the bed beside me in our home, with our 15-pound daughter tucked between us, with our bodies spooned around the curl of our 27-pound son. He has moved from the edge of my life to the center, transfiguring me into wife and mother.
We are closer than ever and also farther apart.
34 years old, and when do we kiss now? Four weeks ago, walking down State Parkway after 7 p.m. on a Friday night, he clasped my hand in his, our fingers intertwining. We swung arms and—my step a skip, my heart a feather, grasping again in our tenuously held hands the initial glint of us—I became 15 years old again. Everything young. Everything new.
White wire springs from my scalp and sticks from his chin. Our backs protest at every twist and bend. Our eyes beg every night to be closed. That man who declined to stay the night 10 years ago has run my body through with life; made it a vehicle for giving more than I ever imagined possible. My body—my most private, tender body—having bled and bruised, having been split in two, having survived the stretch of pregnancy and trauma of childbirth, does not respond to the warmth of his breath as reflexively as it once did. Neither does he offer it as reflexively as he once did. Who has the time?
Instead of snuggling in bed together, I warm at the sound of him in the next room reading books to our son while our daughter dozes beside me in our bed after nursing. I hardly know how much I love him anymore. I hardly know how much he means. How we are the same people we always were. And how we are nothing the same. How this body is the same one that lay on that gray couch 10 years ago, my back to his belly, my neck turning toward his face. This is still my same heart, and it is entirely his. And yet nothing is the same.
I hardly know myself, and I’ve never known myself better.
Ten years in, we look to pull a rabbit from a hat in our marriage. We are the same people, now fighting to feed fuel and air to the fire of our love. We seek that original aperture: our warmth, our breath, the trace of our fingers and parting of our lips, the first bright shiver of our possibility. Romance is a dream. Intimacy is work. Love is something we have to make. And we are tired. But there is nothing more important—or that we’d rather do.
34 years old, and living has never meant more than it does now. I have never loved my life more than I do now with him so firmly at the center.
We are deep into it. I hope we are barely into it.
I want another year. And another. And another still. I have built my life on his breath, his lips, his hand clasping mine, on the glint and memory of our possibility: I want nothing more than our love, our family, our children—everything that breaks, that ends, that we’ve created from nothing. From just us two kids, two strangers, two people who hardly knew each other snuggling on someone else’s couch nearly 10 years ago.
34 years old. And he is what matters most to me today. He is what I wish for.