Christmas Eve

you get up long before dawn.

mornings like this, i just stay up. evenings, you come home grey faced with tired, smiling. if i am lucky, you can eat. and then the short cuddle and more smiling and you sleeping, hard and restless at once, and i creep back out into long silence and dark. i like these hours, sitting up, knowing you can rest. those are the good nights.

on the good nights, i can take the rituals slow, between words and work. sandwiches made. lunch packed. shirt ironed. there is a comfort in the smell of hot cotton and steam, in the long circles of spoon through mixing bowl. i sing whil ei work. the smell of baking muffins ghosts through the house like incense. they are small rituals, small magics. i am making only warmth here, for you to take with you.

this is a morning like all mornings. you wake not quite as grey. you pet dogs and blink. shower steam mixes with kitchen steam. you tie bootlaces and are gone. maybe i am sleeping, by then, maybe not. either way, we kiss, sometimes once, sometimes for a long time.

here’s the thing i know about your days. something will be hard. something will hurt. sometimes, it will hurt more than others. sometimes they don’t come back. sometimes heart do not restart. sometimes it was too late to begin with. sometimes it is nothing at all, a call because someone is lonesome, or angry. sometimes it is something indeed, and nothing to be done for it. you come home from those with a twisted mouth, still hurting in secret that you could not help. sometimes you come in with hands spasming open as if to let go of futility. you do not ever let it go. sometimes, too, you come home in the glow of joy because one was saved, because you saved one. sometimes you come in shaking, as if you have carried all the city on your back. sometimes i think you have.

i wake up to the long silence and the light. i like these hours, with the light diffusing through the curtains. i can take the rituals slow, between words and work. dinner cooking. i sing while i work. the little washing machine filling the house with a smell of soap and clean cotton. the blood comes out quite easily. i’ve gotten good at that.

you will be home, soon enough. soon is late, always. i cannot remember the last time your work ended on time. you will come home grey faced and tired and smiling. we will sit together, in the glow of screens or streetlights. we may sing. and i will not tell you how you make all the meaning in this night. in every night. i will not need to.

and before you sleep, we will lean into one another. we will feel the heat that we make together. we will feel the warmth. there will be the long silence that is resting, together, breathing long and slow. this is love, as it always is. as we build it, every day. all is calm. all is bright.

Kara Coryell