We used to have those fights. You know the ones. Who’s more tired? Who’s done more? Whose turn is it to do x,y,z, crawl out of bed, curse the other in our heads? Make the bottle, burn our fingers?
We’d barely graced our twenties, still chased each other on trampolines. Two summers with you as the hot centre of my head, and then we were parents.
How do I begin? How do I address my shadow, the one mapped into the corners of my mind? I unlearned romance from you, lessons in how to pick off its lies, rode high on the nuance of your words. You let me down, said, “you read too much into things”, laughed as I wrought lines of you, made small, clay men to hold against you. Texted you, I’m pregnant, said, with a swollen belly, I’m going back.
Did you get a choice? Or did I load you up with my life, make you bear the weight of what I needed to do? You might’ve made me choose, pitted my degree against your need for routine, for a hypostasis I had no right to take. Nevertheless, you taught me what it is to be there, to give of yourself without complaint. I see your love, not as others do, in smiles, in circles of arms round our child, but in the weight of nappies changed, in dawns with our daughter while I sleep, six o’clock when I call and say, “I need more time”, and your “okay” which thrums like a string through the weeks.
I love you, though you take love’s rougher routes, its hard-graft paths and hoards of stones. You offer me scoria and slate, warn me, when I range for sweet words among trees, that such fruit doesn’t grow here. Instead, you mix roots, make meals strong enough to rid me of my seeds. I hold them still, scatter and sow: a small, secret harvest for a small, private pain.