What was given came without the usual reasons—the earth that day having completed no meaningful circuit of the sun. The giving should have been cause enough for surprise, or that hidden beneath patterned folds of wrap, within a box large as any man's bewilderment, waited some unknown thing, purchased after long labor. How undeserved, that unreciprocated moment, when all the twisted paths they'd walked together and alone, seemed to brighten at the first tug on the bow, the paper hinging out like doors, the lid ready to come undone as one stood there, still too frightened to peer inside.
For all the bother, it's the peeling away we savored, the slow striptease toward a tender heart— how each petal dipped in the buttery sauce was raked across our lower teeth, its residue less redolent of desire than sweet restraint, a mere foretaste of passion, but the scaly plates piled up like potsherds in a kitchen midden, a history in what's now useless, discarded— so we strained after less and less as the barbs perhaps drew a little blood and we cut our way into the core to rid us of the fiber that would stifle every ut- terance between us. In our quest for that morsel, how we risked silence, risked even love.