Morning Sun by Edward Hopper (1952)

Morning Sun by Edward Hopper (1952)

His heart beats so hard she’s afraid it will shatter. It’s such a fragile thing. A hunk of meat and tenacity. It will stop one day, she knows. It will stop and he will leave her.

She is young and strong. He is not so young. The men in his family thrive until they don’t. They stop, without warning, when the machinery gives out. She wants to reach in and cradle his heart. She wants hold it in her hands and hide it from the day that he will leave.

They have talked about children. They’ve talked for years. Some day, they’ve said. When the time is right. She is still young, after all. But he is getting older. There is silver in his hair. Not much, but enough—enough for her to imagine his father dying at his age.

She hadn’t known him then. She’d been in college, drinking too much and playing too hard, while he’d been deep in his career. She hadn’t known he existed to be lost. She hadn’t known that, when they’d buried his father, this man, her man, would be next in line.

He shifts in his sleep, restless in the thick, yellow sun where they nap. Beyond the open window, the city hums like locusts, feeding off the heat. There is nothing to do. No child to tend. No errands to run. He gets tired sometimes, so they sleep. They are sleeping away his life. She feels a muted, desperate panic as she strokes his chest.

She sits up and unbuckles his belt. Her hands are nimble and quiet, as if she’s trying to wake him up without disturbing his sleep. He opens his eyes and smiles, sweet like a boy. It makes her ache in places she can’t name. The ache spreads through her. It passes through nerve and tissue and bone until she becomes that ache; the aching, inevitable loss of him, anticipatory and sharp.

He touches her face. His bright eyes are framed by a fan of lines that make him look “distinguished”. A man of a certain age. She wishes she were of a certain age too. She wishes she would die first. It’s a selfish wish and it shames her, but she would happily give him the ache of her loss to avoid the loss of him. She feels small and tight for wishing it, but fear is leaking out of her, red and raw, too swollen for her chest.

“Hey love,” he murmurs, but she shakes her head.

She doesn’t want to talk. His smile is sad now as he lifts up his hips so she can slide the denim down. His Levi’s are ancient, from before they met, broken in just right. She will remember him wearing them when he is gone…when she rocks a baby and kisses a scraped knee. The memories are stacked like tiles in her brain. She feels them, waiting to be used.

She unbuttons her dress and tosses it aside with unnecessary force. She’s fractious and keen. She feels the absence of his touch. She wants every barrier gone.

He watches her, stroking her thighs, her flat belly, her soft, heavy breasts. She lets him work a finger between her too-hot skin and the thin cotton band that holds her panties up. He tugs a little, playful, but she doesn’t smile back. She is too full of purpose as she rests her hand on his, and pushes her panties down.

She straddles him, hovering over his cock with no pretense at play. Normally, she would want to taste him, salty with Sunday laziness and sunshine sweat, but she is driven now. She wants a part of him, whole and holdable. Somewhere to put her love in the days when he is gone.

It’s a dangerous want. She knows it, even as she sinks down.

Her cunt is wet with the tears she knows she will cry. She closes her eyes and focuses on him beneath her, their rightness, his pulse, the feathery beat of his heart. He rolls her over and presses her into the bed. She is crying and he lets her. He will ask her why after, when they are sated, when his come is safe between her legs, when there’s hope that something will grow in the sunlight of their bed, in the city that sounds like locusts.