1) First, get the groceries. Get the baby when he cries. Get a clutch of flowers, and make sure they’re the wild ones. These, the ones that waver when your car wings past, the ones that seem to be stretching toward you with every stem and every filament.
2) Forget your hands, your mouth. Forget that ancient come-on that you used back when it was just the two of you. Grab her breasts while she’s cooking, and she will become a stinging nettle. Put your hand down her pants when she’s washing the dishes, and she will become a man o’ war. If she lets you, touch her hair by hair and inch by delicate inch. Expect nothing.
3) Imagine that you, instead, are the one who gave birth and every day is marked and made by baby. All day, the kick of his doughy little legs into the soft of your stomach, the cry after cry, the endless shushing and burping over the drone of the home improvement shows in Toronto or Waco or Orange County. There is love, there is love, so sharp and unceasing that you feel the cut of it all the way to your bones. There is also the constant weight of him, the yank and the clutch, hour after hour. You have become the glassy window the baby smears his lips against, the railing on the stairs where the polish has all worn down. Deep beneath the press of him, deep beneath the blade of your love, you know you are never free, you know you never will be.
4) Let her sleep and sleep and sleep.
5) If there is a bird, sing to it. If there is a children’s television show playing, turn it off. If there is open sky, if there is open air, make love to the both of them first. Fill your lungs. Tuck the shine under your skin. Take them to her as an offering. Let the breath and light begin to bring her back.
6) Consider the people she’s told you about. Consider the people she hasn’t. The chiropractor who cried as she fucked him. The barista with the two different-color eyes who bit your wife’s fingers when she came. The doctoral student who told her he was married right after he put the condom on, who she’d liked a little more in that moment because it was the first honest thing he’d said. The neighbor whose testicle she’d found a mass in while giving him a blow job, the neighbor who said she was lying and who slapped her hand away.
7) Consider that she is circling the edge of it, a dulling, a breaking down. Consider that she has been here before, the penny clutched in the hot of a hand, the worn brass doorknob, constantly turning.
8) Imagine doling out your skin, your hunger, your hurt. Imagine what she has done with her worn-out body to keep you fed.
9) Consider the people she fantasizes about while breastfeeding in the peach-soft light of morning. Consider the people who will ask no questions. Out there, somewhere, there is a someone who won’t pass her like she’s a piece of furniture on their way to go play video games. Out there is a someone who will tell her for a solid hour she is beautiful, no matter how soft her stomach, no matter what underwear she’s wearing. Consider, consider that those someones are just a text, a call, a handful of houses away.
10) If she lets you, lay her down.
11) Let her tell you where. Let her say that the only antidote to too much touch is more of it where the hands of a child will never go. Spread her legs and run your tongue along the inside of her thigh like a blade of grass, like the blade of a knife. Whisper between her legs you are the gloss over all of the universe, you are the fire and the light, you are everything, everything, burning. When she shivers, bury your tongue and your fingers inside her. Let her clutch the pillow. Let the roar and rush of her breath tell you the tempo that will take the pain away.
12) And if her body is a house, then it is still haunted, and you must enter it slowly.
13) And if her body is a sanctuary, then you must worship the whole of it.
14) And if her body is the nucleus of the atom of your love, then you wait for her to beg you. You wait for her to tell you yes yes yes. And then you fuck her until she feels new again, until she is burnished, until her skin is gleaming.
Megan Pillow is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in, among other places, Electric Literature, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Believer, Passages North, TriQuarterly, and Gay Magazine.