For n.

When I run my fingers over her skin I see traces of the lives she has already lived, lives that I have never known – perhaps never will know. Her skin tells the stories of past loves, lovers that have been too quick, too rough. Stories of children gained and lost. Homes built and burned down.

When I look at her, when I really look, I see the toll it has taken to be one woman holding the weight of loss in the palms of her hands.

Sometimes I look at her looking at me and my hands want to pull at my shoulders and bring them in close. My head bows. I think she sees me too.

When I see myself through her, I see an intruder. Someone temporary. I see how much I need her and how consuming it is to be needed. I see how strong she is, yet delicate, how heavy a small bird is in the hand of another. I worry often about crushing her.

Sometimes at night, after she has fallen asleep beside me, I lie very still and fret about all the ways in which I do not belong. I worry that this life is not what she planned. But what is a life planned but a wish list that never ends.

I know she busies herself and fills her days to the brim in fear of what might happen if all her days were not full, if all her moments weren’t already promised away to the more needy. What would be left to confront? Not the day’s takings on her soul – but a question that dare not be asked.

The older I get the more sure I am, that we all have one question we spend our days, our lives, frantically – if not madly – dancing around. Only the very brave and broken dare stop their mad dance long enough to find out what their question is. And do they answer it?

When I sit with her, it is with the quiet acceptance that we are both still dancing around our lives in some strange, unacknowledged way. That we might continue to dance for some time to come – and that’s okay, as long as she continues to dance with me.

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