My Dark and Empty Sky

In the lulling hours of late afternoon, when my sons are with their tutor and my husband is at his office, I usually take tea and sit with my daughter watching the birds along the lakeshore, but not today. Today, my daughter is dancing with other well-groomed girls at the Haverton Society, and a woman lies naked in my bed.

She kisses me with deliberation, her lips rubbing across mine, as if trying to pleasure every nerve. After she accustoms my mouth to her caresses, she moves down my neck, and her lawless touches speed my heart. I live for these secret afternoons, when an infidelity to reality becomes my only freedom, for I can imagine a better world than this perfect one.

The satin comforter slides from the bed into a burgundy pile. We snuggle under a sheet, and my adoring hands knead her powder-white flesh as it pulses warmly. Damp skin offers up its feminine musk, and when I reach lower, moisture allows an easy glide. As my fingers plunge into her, she moans and rolls onto her back. Her face slackens and strains as I stroke her wet walls.

I can imagine her wading through the foamy Mediterranean, her lithe limbs beading with water, as we love each other among the waves. I can imagine our intimate talk as we huddle close in a roof garden at sunset, seduced by the sea’s moody hues and sipping wine at a café table. I can imagine many pleasures that we’ll never know because our only choice is an afternoon in a country villa, drapes drawn against discovery as we love each other on sheets that smell of a man.

We roll among gold and white pillows until the annulling beauty of her eyes startles me, but I remain vigilant, appraising her like a sailor evaluating a perilous current. Men aren’t the only dangerous things. Her husband manages her well, so she questions herself far more than she questions him. I worry that she may one day assume a settled indifference, as so many have, or that she may confess and be sent away. Love like ours doesn’t exist, at least not on its own terms, because a century ago, science showed that desire lies beyond choice, and when gene therapies found the means to make us all desire alike, no one wanted it any other way.

When her kiss again breathes heat into my mouth, a new hunger takes hold of me. Sliding down, I brush my nose through the pillow of hair and nuzzle her tender flesh. Salt and sweat stir my blood with a scent I crave but can never truly remember. Content to lick and tease her clitoris, I lay between her legs for almost an hour before she comes in my mouth, slowly, like honey spreading. Her back arches, and she cries my name. Her legs and hips tense with each convulsive wave. Later, as I watch sweat trickle down her cheek, I wonder just how science could claim what was so obviously untrue.

Fresh from their success at demystifying desire, men of the twenty-first century began to praise unbelief as a virtue, as if science had liberated their minds, when it had merely unburdened their consciences. Science made other classes of outsiders vanish, too, like the darker races and the poor. Their utopian moment was brief, however, because the world that remained after the last ghettos disappeared disintegrated rapidly into chaos. After men had no outcasts left to unite against, no victims to certify their victory, everyone became a potential enemy, and competition became deadly. Violence erupted everywhere.

Decades of war followed, and savagery nearly eclipsed civilization altogether before men found a way to bond again. They resurrected a common enemy, an ancient group whose exclusion could transfigure their radical violence into righteousness and give them back their religion. They took away our economic freedom and our reproductive freedom and our physical freedom because they needed their vitality to build personal futures with our bodies. Lawless violence was a less appealing prospect than organized violence.

The afternoon ends too quickly. Our love must make way again for husbands and children. Feeling torn open, I shut my eyes against the sting of tears. She holds me against her chest, comforting me with her steady heartbeat. My heart aches because my faith is a woman’s faith, one that doesn’t translate the words of men but scenes of grace lived out by those tossed from heaven into a dark and empty sky. I know God doesn’t require a victim. Only men do, because they don’t realize the one sacrifice that counts is their own.

She chastises my attempt at romantic penitence and calls me decadent, and she’s right, but I tell her that those who refuse healing remain blind. Her psychomachy seems like an artifact from another age, when people could legitimize their desire only by denying it was a choice. I have no such conflict, for my body and soul blissfully embrace each other, if only in her presence, for she is blessed among women. She is benediction.

© 2006 Teresa Wymore. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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