"Do you have enough time?" I asked. To show me his truth, I meant.

He was leaving for work, running late. He'd been gathering his things, about to go when I asked him how he felt, honestly. And he stopped. His moment for me.

"All right," he answered and took off his jacket. "I'll show you." My lover lifted his shirt, then he quickly grabbed my hand and pressed it to his chest. He said, "Hold here." I held on, palming one side of his ribcage. He held the other fan of ribs and pulled. Crack, his body opened up.

There in the center of his chest was a little boy riding a stallion made of fire. Flame-licking mane and hooves glowing blue. The horse stamped back and forth, eager to run. The boy shone bright white in the glare.

Air rushed in through the crack in his chest. It maddened the horse's flames; I heard the roar of burning. The stallion glared around with wild blue eyes, shook his head. The little boy tightened his hold on the burning mane.

My lover pulled away from me then; he hunched down and shoved his chest closed with both hands. Crack. Pulled his lifted shirt down, smoothed it over his belly. Stood beside me, mortal and panting, looking at the ground, recovering his breath.

The world was all earth tones compared to that burning. I missed seeing color made from heat and light. Everything else seemed opaque and sad.

He exhaled one last time, put his jacket back on, and regained composure. Looked at me with calm brown eyes, a Geography teacher's eyes. "I have to go to work now." Smiled mild and kindly.

I gripped his arm, expecting the touch to burn. It didn't. His soft flesh, not completely muscular. "Show me again," I whispered.

He looked disappointed with me. "No," shaking his shaggy head. "No, I have to
go. They're waiting, I can't be late." He slung his bag over his shoulder.

But his chest's bright grotto vision was the first thing to make sense in all the gravity and order around me. "Please," I urged like a flametip, and I wanted to set fire to the entire damp world.

"I can't." He craned his neck as he fixed the twisted strap of his bag. "I don't want to do it again," he said simply to his shoulder. He flickered his gaze up to my eyes. "I'll see you when I get home," and he kissed my cheek.

I watched him and wondered, Who is this mild earthy creature speaking pebbles
and moss, algae water? Opening the door, turning the doorknob's lock between his fingers.

"Wait!" I called from the foyer. He turned and smiled like a mother's I love you, and shut the locked door after him.

But I was speaking to that boy riding the burning horse. I was calling to the one moment when he cracked himself open. That passionate wildfire was true, somewhere inside him. I knew I'd never see it, not like that, ever again.

That was enough, that one moment. I stayed with him for years and years, waiting, like the moon circling the earth. I sat out in the night, smoldering with my pent up life force till I understood the secret of the moon, why it pulls the tides. It's the molten fire inside the earth it craves, and the moon goes around and around, vigilantly trying to draw that fire back out.

Dawn Sperber's work has appeared in Rosebud Magazine. She is currently living and dreaming in New Mexico.

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