Everything breaks, is broken, or sticks underfoot like porridge. Voice grows tired, and heart turns wild at the endless, savage price of love. Crushed underfoot, I learn Eden and Golgotha while I wipe the floor again. Body breaks, is broken, tomorrow is new.
What happens, he wonders, shattered by the mess, by the day, by the constancy of demands, by the ever-present lesson of patience, by the daily failure to learn this patience -
What happens, he asks, when my love is broken?
Nothing happens. The day goes on, all is reset as night arrives; all but the weight that pulls at his shoulders, that sags like his soul has a leak in its middle. Nothing happens; night is as long and restless as the one before, and morning will come with its worries anew.
But this still happens. The glory happens, though it does not shout or cry. Day on day, God dwells in this mystery: that love can wake up tomorrow and do what love has done today.
Bins at the curb, I pause in a night of deep quiet and catch the thought that no-one else is here.
Sleepy suburban street rarely parties; nights are seldom wild around here. Yet silence catches with surprise: no-one walking home from shops, no night-time joggers, no cars coming home. No feet sharing this curb with mine.
And this weekly domestic act becomes a moment of strange resistance, a heartbeat-long yearning to see other neighbours lugging their bins, to duck down the street to No.16 and say, "This package is yours. The postie dropped it here by mistake." But it's after 8 and I've no mask; the edge of this block is the wall for my feet.
To love my neighbour tonight is to go back inside and pray.
First you will learn about smiles, how much you smile, what's contained in a smile, what's implied in the different degrees of smile: in a curl of the lip at a funny thought, in the mouth's outstretched corners to greet the close acquaintance, in the sardonic phrase, the empathic moment. All these things you will learn when they cannot be seen.
And eyes. You will learn about eyes. How readily you can recognise eyes across a courtyard or carpark, how much you can guess of a heart or a day from the eyes poking out above the nose.
And breath. You will learn about breath. You will taste it, smell it, absorb it all day. You will choose your words and your silence to preserve moments when you can simply breathe. You will long to stand in the garden beside your office and do nothing in that afternoon air but take off your mask and breathe.
And faces - you will catch, in their absence, the beauty, the wonder of faces, the heart-catching, God-splendoured glory of faces. You will long for the faces that you loved and despised, will search the room for these faces, will wish that these faces could transfigure their otherness straight into yours. You will cover your face and stifle your breath and halve your smile in hope of the day, to work for the day, when all of our faces are back.
Hiding within my son's clothes, it lay unseen until bedtime when it scurried out from his sleeve, explaining his tears through dinner and the nick on his wrist spotted only moments before.
It was not the night to visit Emergency. Wind and rain buffeted the drive, as unidentified spider in jar beside me, I punctuated my frantic breaths with comma prayers and apostrophe thoughts of the worst that could happen in a waiting room at night.
Arriving to warnings plastered on doors, I tried not to gawk at the three who were kept behind a sealed door, faces masked, breathing an obvious chore. And while we waited, my son calm, no swelling, spider determined to see out the night, I pondered risking it and going home, but stayed instead, and tried to love my neighbour from a distance, sharing smiles that said, "We're in this together," while mind returned again, again to the microbes that may, may not circle the air, and tried not to fear the pestilence stalking the night, or the day that I may become one others fear.