“Beautiful” is not the right word – “beautiful” is cheap, overused, like the pair of degraded work shoes I used to wear as a server at Serrano’s and dishwasher at D’Agastino’s (hazy film over the black, cracking leather; soles flapping like the gaping jaws of a retarded mutt; the not-so-faint smell of rotting food and grime). No, “beautiful” says nothing but “I’m not creative at all and I don’t have anything remarkable to say about you. You are not special, just as your adjective is one that could be applied to the most mundane and wretched of women.” That’s not what one says to one’s bride, the flesh of one’s flesh, the ever-present bastion of love in one’s home. If I could say a word about Kelli, if I could reach down inside myself in the blood and guts and membranes and see what in God’s name would come up, it might be warmth. A strange translucent type of warmth – an ardent glow which, solid like an avocado at its center, is surrounded by fluffed feathers. Yes, warmth. Every time she stares across the dinner table, woefully aware of my glaring and habitual shortcomings (I am, sadly, very far from perfection), and every time she grins and strokes my now shorter hair while we lay together – I feel it. “Fieri sentio et excrucior”. “I feel it happen and am crucified.”
Maybe it’s why I married her. I found no other woman who, in spite of all the hassle of life-with-Ryan, can exude a glow and a warmth. Not like a womb. Nothing so strange or encapsulating, nothing so smothering. But more like the stove-top that warmed me as a child, waking up violently shivering in our blue rent-house which always managed to stay colder inside than it was outside (those times were colder, though, it seems – the puddles in the driveway would ice overnight. That just doesn’t happen anymore, I suppose). I imagine this tremendous heat comes about like a sort of friction with grace – not a bad friction, as you might try to limit in a combustion engine – but the result of a wisp of grace lighting a candle in a dark room, and beginning to spin a sewing wheel. That kind of heat, that kind of friction. Not just a material heat – the whirring of molecules – but a pulsating friction of grace dripping into her bones and flowing into me from her.
I suppose, truth be told, that I’ll spend the rest of my life making silly postulations about why Kelli makes me happy, why to her and her alone of all creatures I said non nisi te – “no one unless you.” Mark this down as one of my first: its her gracious friction, the smallest little ember which the Spirit softly brings to bright glowing in her. I feel her warmth, am crucified by it, and go out a better man.
This, my friends, is the power of language.