Saturday, 6 June 2020

'Wearing You' by Michelle Christophorou

The night we met, the moon hung so big and bright and beautiful I wanted to pluck it from the sky and hang it round my neck. I wore you instead.

At first, it was your scent, as I slipped home on the 5 am tube to shower, overwhelmed by the blossoming of slick musk on my skin, in my hair, radiating from my clothes. Afraid everyone else could sense you too. Wondering why — if my body screamed of sex — I never detected it on others.

Next, I wore your love, proud on my body. The way you stood close to me, carried my bags, said my name into my hair in the dark. It was in the shine of my eyes, the blush of my skin, the unexpected shedding of pounds. 

When we were engaged, I wore your ring like a medal, one I couldn’t believe I’d won. The object of unfamiliar questions, I navigated that particular language of women from which I usually flinch: ‘Where will you buy your dress?’, ‘Which shoes?’, ‘What will you do for your hen?’ We hunted down official documents, escaped to Amorgos, got hitched in a tiny white chapel, honeymooned in a stone villa with its own secluded beach. For a few precious weeks, we were Circe and Odysseus.

When my body began its whale call, I wore you down. ‘Fertility plummets after 32.’

And so I wore our stem cells, multiplying inside me, first a sensitivity of nipple, then a constant nausea-tinged hunger, then a swell that rose to a mound. During the hushed group tour of the maternity ward, your arm protective at the small of my back, someone else’s husband broke the sanctity with his wince-making joke about wedding rings and crushed fingers. I knew that could never be you.

Our son grew up to wear your expectations, and several of your expressions. Not so alike apart, but sitting together watching football, your profiles mirrored each other.

And slowly we wore thin. Your promotion, my redundancy; your insistence on — my resistance to — another child. Date nights at The Ivy morphed to pizza, popcorn and Netflix, then just Netflix, then Netflix on separate devices. All that binds us now, our child’s need for you.

One day, age will wear you down. Erode your bones, transform your cells. In my dreams I’m a widow from a Victorian novel, the locket that separates my skin from your hair worn cold and smooth against my breast.  

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