It's as if a deep wound, long buried, has been laid open. Lying beside my wife, I'm confused by my maleness — so hard, so insistent — and feel somehow implicated in her wounding. Every caress feels coercive. Yet there is another kind of touching she welcomes. In the past, I often gave her massages; sometimes as a prelude to lovemaking. Now massage has become a lifeline between us. I imagine my fingers are drawing out the tension and fear that have invaded her body. And for the moment at least, it seems to be so.
She lies on our bed on her stomach. I straddle her from behind, lean forward, and work my fingers through her hair, massaging her scalp. I rub her neck and shoulders, then work down her back. How fragile she seems, this woman who runs marathons, climbs mountains, skis the most demanding trails. Her shoulders and neck, her wrists and fingers seem impossibly delicate. This is a perception I have often had of the children but never before of her: how breakable a human being is.
I move down to her buttocks. Years ago she taught me how to make bread. Now I am the baker in the family — a better bread maker than breadwinner, we used to joke — and the children have grown up eating what they call "Daddy's bread." As I massage her there, I am invariably, helplessly, reminded of kneading dough. And vice versa. This is one of the surprises life has held: this ripening of sexual passion over time — the way it deepens and ramifies, embracing not only children but also garden and kitchen in the sexuality of the household.