I woke to his hands at the base of my neck. Those wide, hard thumbs lined and gnarled and festering with time, brusque with the abrasion of decades long sunk before I breathed. I repulse you, his touch seemed to say in the dark. I repulse you, and that is your punishment. I am the molten gold poured into the mouth of your greed.
“Are you going to write this down too, I wonder, ” he had mused in the gloom, tracing up to my throat. “Are you going to trap me on paper, for history to laugh at?” I did not respond. Six months to the night as his wife, and I knew not to let him savour any inch of emotion, or relish in a second of my disgust. But more than anything, in the cold bloom of the night, I did not want to turn and see that rotting face curdled with age in the dark. I had buried myself with him, this wedded corpse that lingered in my bed and rotted and blistered beside me each night. “You always knew how to find what hurt, didn’t you my dear?” Those hands again, hard on my hips, my nakedness. “You’re more like me than you’d like. You’re cold, too.”
“I’m not,” I retorted, more to myself than to him. “I’m nothing like you. I’ve never been anything like you.” I’m alive, I wanted to add. I’m alive, I beat, I breathe, I love, I feel. I am still full of what has yet to be. Not like you. Nothing like you. Nothing as cruel or hard or callous as you.
“We all grow old,” he said, relishing in his sadism. “You’re going to wake up and find age staring back at you.” I wanted to grab those hands, grab that wandering intrusion, and thrust his crumbling body out into the dark. But I didn’t give him the pleasure of retaliation. My rigidity irritated him. Angered him. “And no one will want you. No one will reach for you. They’ll recoil from you, as you recoil from me.”
“I don’t recoil from you because you’re old, Abel.”
“Yes you do,” he said, leaning in and kissing my clavicle. “I can read you. In bed with a corpse, that’s what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why I don’t just die. Why haven’t I died, like I was supposed to?” I wondered if he felt my heartbeat tighten then. If he could feel the choking inhalation of my stillness, prey staring with a monstrous calm from the thicket at a beast.