This is one of the things they keep arguing about. He finds it very difficult to explain to her. She wants him to say it to her all the time, imagining that every time it becomes more lustrous, more deeply rooted, that it fertilises and replenishes itself. She seems to have a whole garden of words in her head, an orchard full of trees whose fruit, once picked, immediately replaces itself. He, in the same way he was born with only a limited number of teeth in his mouth, knows that each one is precious, that there is only a small number of times he can say these words before there are none left in him. He counts them repeatedly to check they are still there, running his tongue over the outline of each enamelled word. Every time she makes him say it is like a tooth being torn out by the roots.

··

Over time your bodies have taken on the shape of each other, grooved and indented by the friction of your nights. Looking down at your body tonight, you see only the absence of his. You count your ribs as you would count his fingers slotted into them. Your collarbone remembers his chin; your thighs remember his hips. Your body exists only where the memory of his repeats itself against you. Try as I might, I cannot bring you to life. Your bodies are too deeply confused. I feel his fingers in your ribs, his hips between your thighs. I cannot fit between your body and his.

··

We photograph ourselves to close the gap between us. The photographs do not show our arguments and failures, the things we cannot talk about. The clothes and the smiles hide the calluses and burns on our bodies, the patches where we have worn away the skin to reveal the marble and metal bulk of our incompatibility. I want to believe these photos as everyone else believes them. We surround ourselves with images of beach holidays, temple visits, shared meals; we apply these healing icons directly to the exposed flesh of our bodies. I want to believe this accumulation of photographs will be enough to bind tight the wounds we inflict on each other in private, to safeguard us against the attrition of every passing day.

 

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