By Caroline Hesby, TIWP Student
It had been so many years. A long string stretched out, pictures hanging with paper clips, snapshots of all the big events, the adventures, the memories. Recently he had gazed at them with glossy eyes, retracing the young faces in his mind. The sun set the grass ablaze on that September day, his plastic lawn chair creaked with years of use, and he squinted at the outline of the woman walking along the fenceline across the yellow field.
She moved in slow motion; her dress swayed with the wind and settled against her round belly. Her silky skin glowed in the golden hour. The hazy horizon melted into the hills and into her — there she was, floating against the image, gracefully sweeping through the overgrowth to the hum of summer cicadas.
Young voices echoed in the background, but he stayed fixated on the woman in front of him. Gray streaks had begun to peek through her chestnut hair, and delicate lines decorated the corners of her eyes. He thought of the night they married, her innocent face filled with a vibrance and a curiosity that almost scared him. Now her auburn eyes reflected a certain restless richness, not unlike a lion stirring in its cage. For a moment he caught her glance, seeing not the woman he slept next to, but a daring creature bound to its human body.
The past few years had frozen over into a dull existence for him. Dragging through the daylight, each week repetitive and numbing. He frequented beers and lingered in his lawn chair for longer each night. When the household quieted he sat in discomfort to the sound of her tidying and quiet humming. His mind wandered beyond their stretch of land, nestled between the rolling hills, but it seemed his fate was sealed into the walls of their tiny wooden home.
The pink clouds settled into the expanding landscape, and so did a guilt in his stomach. He watched the flaming figure of his wife gently hang each cloth on the clothes line, hypnotized by her gentle movements. The woman growing life inside her for a third time— an extension of the saturated environment. How did he blind himself to her for so long?
He found himself ashamedly wanting her to break, to fail: if she lost her ambition or broke her composure he would finally be able to breathe in his own imperfect body. If she shattered in his hands, she’d thank him for gluing back together her fragile pieces. But her every move was laced with loving, be it burning passion or unconditional adoration. When their first son was born she had screamed and struggled, and knew exactly what she was doing the whole time. Suddenly she had made him a father.
She had painted the house pale yellow because she loathed the crumbling brown panels. That night she fell asleep on the porch with her book open across her paint-streaked jeans. He shuffled through the moments in his mind. Coming home from work to fresh laundry and a plate of supper. Nights he heard her faint hushing and singing when the kids were sick, and the nights he got to stay in bed. He couldn’t remember a morning she hadn’t met him in the kitchen with a cup of coffee before the sun had reached the windows, or a day she hadn’t reminded him to hang his good shirts rather than toss them into the dryer.
It became cruelly clear to him, the man who always hesitated and complained and gave up: this peaceful but fiery girl had spun their young love into a real life —her mind, heart, and hands had taught each lesson and tamed every storm. Her magic weaved together all that he had and kept it from unraveling.
He feared the greatest mistake of his life had been made. Somewhere along the timeline he forgot to cherish each subtle favor, each encouraging remark. She had slipped through his fingers, outside the walls of his tunneled vision, as she evolved more and more each day into the boundless woman she had become. The woman who grew life, and protected a small body with a nurturing essence he would never possess. The woman, with flowing brown hair that resembled a tree’s bark and whose eyes held centuries of wisdom. Whose hands washed thousands of dishes, wiped away hundreds of tears, and held his own throughout the years. Somehow the energy that poured out of her and into their life replenished itself each day. She was not mysterious, but bountiful. She was power, intelligence, kindness, love.
She turned her head and that small, sparkling smile grew on her face. The orange sun coated her in a layer of honey, and it dripped with every step. He understood that the flowers grew for her, and the rain fell to wash away her worries. He did not think her soul could be contained within a single universe. He feared he had not given her enough. Where she had found the fuel for her fire he would never quite understand. Her flame flickered in the twilight.
A mother, a lover, an eternal woman. He hoped however many years they had left would be enough to show her that he understood: that she was everything and more, and more. Though he knew the only way to show this gratitude would be to harness the stars themselves and give them to her.