Pieces of Night
My wife is a moon. Sometimes she rises here only half a cheek and a dark smile. Sometimes she's on the other side of the world watching and being watched. I hate it. The Farmer's Almanac is our marriage manual. I read it to know the perigean tide so I can wash up to her as close as possible. If I could make foamy fingers, I would. Cup miniature spheres to hint at the shape I want her to take: Full. Present. All here. It's difficult making love to a sliver of a woman. A fingernail crescent on the sofa staring at re-runs of Forensic Files. Not looking at me. Not wanting to be seen.
I curl up beside what's left of her and trace the brightest basalt parts, so afraid my hand will disappear into nothing. "Stay."
She tilts on her axis. "I wish I could."
My hand has never gone missing. Sometimes I wish for an excuse to get angry, to vent. But then I trip over the carpet and know my wife is there, a new moon waxing toward me invisible in the shadows. At least she is here, I think, longing for her gibbous hips. At least she is here. I tell her I hunger for leap years. Fantasize about keeping her for a whole day all to myself.
"That's not how it works," she says, a whisper in the crackling dark.
"I know, I know." But I can pretend.
She returns in deepest winter, and I bask in the afterglow for days. I can never tell her how much I detest the rest of the world for vying for her bright face. When she spins away, the room echoes more than it should.
Then she's back-but-not-back. A cool silhouette. Craters I don't recognize are filled with dim light. Earthshine.
"Don't look. I don't want you to see that part of me. I just need to be held."
My hand has never disappeared. I reach toward what can scarcely be seen and stroke the resilient back of her head. Kiss the luminous edge of her jaw. I roll her onto my shoulder and close my eyes, everything in me a bowl to her elbows, her ribs, her neck. We stay like that for days. Then the room brightens, and I wake to her dressing, getting ready to leave.
I sit up. "Wait."
"I need to—"
"You always need to."
We argue, and it is an astronomical event. There are meteor showers. Crossed satellite signals. Star deaths. I've never known anyone with so many sparks. She begins to set west into the peripheral dusk.
"Wait. Please. Am I a—"
"Don't say it. Don't you dare say it."
"—phase? Are you?"
"No." Her shoulders burn the ruddy orange of an eclipse and she climbs back into bed. "You are my constant. We—we are both made of collisions."
I slip under the sheets with her. "I love your dry seas. The penumbra of you against my skin. I have dead volcanoes, too." I roll over and her fingers walk cold and deep among my scars.
She pulls off the covers. "Can you still see me?"
"I can," I say. "I can."
Kathryn McMahon is an American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in places such as Hobart, Wigleaf, Flapperhouse, SmokeLong Quarterly, Booth, Passages North, The Cincinnati Review, Jellyfish Review
and Split Lip
. She is the 2018-19 winner of New Delta Review's Ryan R. Gibbs Award for Flash Fiction. Find more of her writing at darkandsparklystories.com
and follow her on Twitter at @katoscope