You came and I was longing for you You cooled my heart burning with desire. — Sappho, fr. 48 The days run together now Monday is a Wednesday is a Saturday is a Thursday and most days I…
The night before I drafted this piece in a workshop, I had been reading A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes and sharing sections such as “The Orange” and “Blue Coat and Yellow Vest” with John, my husband, the unnamed lover in “Like Water Flowing.” If you haven’t read this particular book by Barthes, I can’t recommend at this moment a more tender and empathetic meditation on love and desire. I lingered on “Love’s Languor,” the “subtle state of amorous desire, experienced in its dearth, outside of any will-to-possess,” where Barthes quotes a beautiful and evocative translation of Sappho’s fragment 31. When Kathy Fish directed the workshop participants the following day to write with an intentional scaffolding of structure, I immediately reached for Sappho to capture the emotional experience of desire for John in the context of the overwhelming blursday sense of existence that had become texturized and demarcated by our lovemaking.
Only, the draft veered away from passion toward wearying and quotidian concerns—the unrelenting pressure of the pandemic, our mutual and divergent pasts, what we each bring to a new, second marriage, the noise and distractions of other people, parenting under tremendous stress. Life, the living, and loss perpetually intrude upon lovers living in time. And so, the temporal setting of this storied piece of creative nonfiction is one year into the global pandemic, a glimpse of when I became grounded and isolated at the home I share with John and his children—my stepchildren—in Durham, North Carolina, along with the strangeness and panic of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the fear and ache of living away from my young adult daughter for the first time, and the inevitable unraveling of our lives.
If there is a particular reader, it is John, except that I invite others in, don’t I?
I’m sharing our love story.
APRIL BRADLEY is a Durham, North Carolina-based writer and editor. Her work appears in such publications as CHEAP POP, JMWW, Heavy Feather Review, Narratively, New Flash Fiction Review, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She is the publisher and editor of Ruby and serves as an associate editor for fiction at Pidgeonholes and as a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. April is a Best American Essays, Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions nominee and a graduate of Yale Divinity School. Find her on Twitter @april_bradley.