I stand by the bed where the young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed.
The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and altogether they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.
Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?
The young woman speaks. 'Will my mouth always be like this?' She asks.
'Yes,' I say, 'it will. It is because the nerve was cut.'
She nods and is silent.
But the young man smiles. 'I like it,' he says. 'It is kind of cute.'
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close, I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
(I do not know where I first heard this - I had scribbled it on a torn piece of paper and tucked it away - to find it today, tumbling out of a book. I had to kneel down to retrieve it, and when I saw what it was, could not rise, my whole self reacting, recognizing God had just dropped in, as casually as a drifting piece of paper falls to the ground where we stand, just like that!)