I see you, my love. Though it’s been some time since you noticed. It used to feel like your singular purpose was to make me stand and stare.
I see the way you move like a dancer, even if the effort of maintaining that posture must pain you now. And how your eyes flicker to the skies at frequent times throughout the day as if watching for rain, even when it is clear.
How you’re always dressed, ready for visitors. Though they come so infrequently these days. And the way you brush and then plait your hair from the same side. Every night. And always to the left.
I notice the sigh you make as you pause to assess the damage in the mirror at the start of your nighttime routine. How tenderly you smooth the paper-thin skin under your eyes, inwards, as if the repetition of this act will massage away the ravages of gravity and time.
I never understood why you’d want to erase those lines.
I see the way you always leave the windows ajar so you can hear the birds on their feeder.
The one in the oak tree on the front lawn that I refilled for you yesterday. The one the damned squirrels always get to first.
People see your shock of white hair, stiff, past your shoulders. But I see the hair that used to have a life of its own and would bounce when you danced.
Oh, how you could dance with those legs of yours. Their memory still quickens me. Your legs would lock around me, squeezing me tight, until every ounce had been drained from my body.
Those legs that you emphasised in the tallest heels you could find. I never knew how you could dance in those things. And everyone would watch you. It used to make me jealous, but you would laugh and call me silly, kiss me on the lips, and then leave me to dance some more.
You don’t see me watching, as you grimace softly when cleaning the sink, or when I catch you stopping to inspect your hands in surprise when the light falls on them through the kitchen window and you realise, not for the first time, how contorted they’ve become.
I see the hands that held our firstborn. Tightly, as if you were afraid that somebody would snatch her from you. Those same hands that promised all those years ago to hold me until we die.
And long after, you had whispered in my ear.
Those hands knew how to tease the small hairs on my back, sending me wild.
Those hands that helped our little ones make prints in clay. Dip their podgy little fingers in paint. That would clean the mess after, and again the next day. And the one after that.
You turn to face me, and I smile. Looking beyond where I sit, you stare. Fixated on an echo of the past playing out on repeat. Your hands flutter to your chin as a thought comes, but they drop again, as it edges just out of your grasp.
That strong jawline that used to jut in defiance. That stubborn chin that I still kiss every night when you sleep. You’re afraid to feel the skin that sags there now, I know my dear.
I see skin that used to shudder at my touch. I hear the rasp of your breath in my ear. I feel those legs, so smooth, holding me tight.
At dusk, that time when the light and my tiredness collude to play tricks on me, I still catch faint glimpses of your hair. A ghost of its colour reflected in the corners of my vision.
As our memories begin to waver in the haze of old age, I will keep guard.
I’ll see you, my copper-haired flame.
I promise that I’ll love you still when no one else is watching. Not even you, my dear.