“Tell me three things you like about yourself,” he says.
I think. “Okay. If I’m shopping for underwear in T.J. Maxx and there are panties on the floor, even if I’m not responsible, I hang them back up.”
“And . . . number two is . . . I give the Foodtown delivery guy $10 because I know that in his country of origin he was a brain surgeon.”
“How many is that?”
“I have to come up with another one?”
“No,” he says. “Those were excellent.”
“You ask that question a lot?”
“Not really,” he says.
The first night we made love, we set ground rules. Rule. There was one: We would do our best not to be mean. An implicit human contract, but who else could we depend on not to be mean?
“Okay, your turn,” I say. “Three things.”
“I only like one thing about myself,” he says.
“I always give my wife the heel of the bread, even though it’s my favorite part.”
“That’s generous,” I say. “I don’t know if I could do that.”
He puts his arm around me. I think of the first time I held my son. Instinct did not come into play. The nurse had to show me how to prop the head and cradle the back. So much to remember, like a golf lesson from a pro.
“Let your arm go loose,” I tell him. “Pretend I’m a sack of potatoes. Better.”
“I haven’t hurt you yet, have I?” he says.
“That means you’re getting ready to,” I say.
“Not necessarily,” he says.
“Should we end it now?” I ask. “Let’s end it now. Then we’ll be equally hurt.”
“Does it hurt less if the other person hurts too?” he says.
His black hair fans out on the pillow. He needs a haircut. What does it tell us about the nature of beauty if, at the particular moment a man is at his most beautiful, he needs a haircut?
“Name anything in nature,” he says “and I’ll tell you where it is on you.”
“Your legs around my back.”
“The inside of a calamata is the color of your eyes.”
“The pulse right here.” He kisses my throat.
Together we stall the inevitable.
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