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    III.

    Now this is a curiously female moment: life, as in death. A small room with fatalistic flickering fluorescent light above my pinpoint orbitals. A fat, comforting nurse: she's got a soothing voice, but it sounds slow, and it sounds all wrong. I'm naked under the paper on the table. My body is acting without orders from my higher brain, taking orders from the animal part, the stem with the closest access to the command center of my nerves. Now the nurse is doing something odd; she has a damp towelette, and she is wiping my right foot with something red and warm. I think it might be blood. She is wiping it on, murmuring something under her breath. Then the nap is gone and it is just her tough brown hand like a vise around my ankle, and there is another hand too (that must be the doctor), and they are leading my dripping foot into the silver bowl that is balanced on the table between my knees. Like a Catholic ceremony of some kind, I think. I pass out.

    I come to just in time to slide off the table, naked, the paper dropping off my skin. I put my clothes on one by one: the underwear, the bra, the jeans, the shirt, the socks, the dirty blue sneakers. I take down my hair from the ponytail it had been in. Then the walk - backwards - to the door, pausing to knock on it twice, softly, as I exit. In the hall I pass the nurse again; she gives me a gentle smile, but I can see the look in her eyes. I walk back down the hall, instinctively knowing where I am going without looking back (this world revolves on trust, after all), until I am back in the waiting room, where my ass leads the way to the white leatherette couch. The magazine flies into my left hand excitedly, opening to exactly what it wanted me to see. Some whorish rich girl with no body has done something worth noting to the world. I read it as everyone reads; from the bottom, going up.

    II.

    He is gasping as he pulls me towards him, blue eyes wide with god and all the exaltation that comes with power. Then we are on the sterile carpet in the personality-free beige box of a modular apartment in a tall concrete tower; we are between clothes, we are scattered. He presses his fingers into my mouth - not in a gentle way, not a soothing way, more with a kind of force - the index and the middle, as if he is searching for a very specific tooth. I am nearly choking on all the parts of him inside of me, squirming, never more aware of my femaleness, of what connotes those double X chromosomes that float within every cell of me. Like an illustration of DNA, colored for emphasis, we twirl on the floor. We dance. And then his eyes are barely apart from my own and his other hand, the one that is not in my mouth, is pressed against the base of my spine, forcing me up, forcing me to him. Each word that is torn from his mouth is like a revelation. Me. To. Belong. You.

    This is the only true love, I find myself thinking.

    I.

    When we are young, the summer nights stretch out for what feel like aeons until the deathly light of dusk bleeds through. When we are young, we step across neon green grass with bare legs like herons, giggling at our immortality. When we are young, the body is an unexamined ecstasy. Life is life and love is love, but nobody said it was easy.

    He watches me as I sit in my car: tall and broad, solid. Curly dark red hair - do they call that auburn still on a man? Flesh damp from the hot humid air of August. Then I am up out of the driver's seat and locking the door behind me, walking backwards to him. I turn around slowly, almost like dancing, and face him up close. We are silent. We are still. There is only heat and sunlight and the sound of locusts in the trees around us.

    I am suddenly very aware of his left hand on my right arm, clutching me. He is looking at me, maybe in shock at what I've just thought. There's something crouching behind those blue eyes, something confused and maybe a little hurt, something that ties all our shared history together. Then the words spill from my lips, but I'm even shocked at what I'm saying, because it just comes out without thought. No foresight. Heart. My. Break. You'll. Then the last kiss: so sweet, so shy, so gentle. As if he needed to ask my permission after so many years of life and love together.

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