• Steph Shuff

The Lover

Updated: Dec 22, 2019

I like his dark eyes. Iris and pupil blend together so that I cannot tell where color ends and soul begins. I like his wide smile. His mouth, his lips, which always seem to be too far for too long even as he presses them against my flesh, tell stories that his eyes keep secret. There’s the charming smile - its corners tucked in and daring me to resist (I can’t). There’s the nervous smile - one sided, whose shifting eyes betray him when I’ve said something that has touched a nerve (I’m sorry). There’s the happy smile, the one that reaches from the corners of his mouth to the corners of his eyes as if each muscle in his face is somehow lifting and relaxing at the same time (I love you, too). There is the wetness of his mouth, the smell of his breath that is all exhale but still somehow sustains me. His hands, whose long fingers seem to grab all of me at once. When we are together there are magnets in our palms, our feet, the improbable pull of opposite poles keeps our fingers intertwined like vines. His skin, whose surface I have mapped using only finger pads and desire. Distance is torture but also grace. In separation, I learn to simmer - a level of heat that is all temperance and no burn. I have learned the hard way there is nothing noble in ignition; the most reckless amongst us can strike a match. Sometimes, I feel like I spent an entire lifetime kindling fires and setting things ablaze. I am tired of the char. He senses wildfire in me, can smell the smoke on my clothing. Maybe he is right to feel unsafe. But his dark eyes and his soft heart make me long to be something new. A wildfire can become a hearth if it is tended, and once upon a time, he was wildfire too. Perhaps his dark eyes aren’t iris after all, they’re coal. And right now, they’re peering over the edge of a cliff only he can see. If I burn too hot, the heat will scar him. If I burn too low, there will be nothing left of this love but cold stone. So I just sit here, tending to this little fire, hoping it is somewhere between enough and too much, not trusting myself to know the difference. All I know is that I like the dark coals of his eyes that tell stories and keep secrets all at once; I cannot tell where iris ends and soul begins. And that is when I realize it. There is no iris. Only soul.

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