Her Wet Matches

by Riham Adly

He’s not here when she rings the bell, and because it’s raining I let her startled face and burning eyes in. She holds her box of matches like a gun. Her breath gets shallower as she tries and tries to light one. She takes some time before she looks up, her swallowed thoughts like her tears, still running. I foresee all that swirls in that wet and pretty head of hers—or so I believe.

To make sure, she lets me hold her gaze for what seems like forever, and in that forever I see his trembling lips in the loosening of her mouth, the cries and kisses and coming he and I share in the hysteria she tries to control.

It is not surprising when she touches my face, and it is in those accented black eyes of hers that I see the puzzling, raw vulnerability of his face. My hands are cold and moist and I want to run fingertips along her lips. She looks tired and the veins on her temple swell from all the senseless-sobbing and it’s just like on those occasions when I’m overflowing with emotions that bring him rushing to my arms, crying like the child we all are.

Her feelings are actions he tries to subvert, instincts I try to free, layer upon layer. He wants to be soothed and lulled, and she? What does she want? Faithfulness? Perfection? He is her husband still, she wants to say, but she sighs and I see in her face a beauty that drowns, suffocates the need for his separation, his liberation.

I wonder when our collective love will be finished, when jealousy is no longer an obstacle, when our role in each other’s lives no longer preoccupies us.

She hesitates before she walks in after me, her disproportionate pride and insatiable need for affection a shadow, a resistance: ashes of darkness under her skin. She sits beside me, timid yet otherworldly. I’d like to peel off her anxiety, calm her need to hurt me, and open her up from the inside to scrub away the dullness and peace she desperately tries to light with her wet matches.