I Don’t Want To Read Your Lips

Hugh Cartwright

Close-up image of a cedar branch weighed down by fresh snow. The snow is fluffy, like cotton balls, and the evergreen branch is bending toward the ground. The trees, bushes, and ground in the background are also covered in snow.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Cadwell/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

I love your lips, but they do not tell me how you feel. Just a touch of your hand, or your smile from across the room, and I can see into your heart.

Evening. The sunlight is golden as we settle for dinner.

“I wonder…” You begin, then pause.

I smile as you tuck back a lock of greying hair and continue.

“…after all, it’s been a while.”

There’s no need to ask what is on your mind. “Not for a few weeks,” I say. “They are away at the cabin with the kids.”

The conversation, barely begun, lapses into agreeable silence.

I gaze past the cedars into the gathering dusk. Gold becomes yellow and purple. “You know, my love, it feels like…”

She interrupts and nods gently. “Yes, you are right. I can feel snow in the air too. We’ll be digging by tomorrow evening.”

But that night, as the snow carpets the trees, a virus will follow. Within weeks it will destroy my hearing forever.

I stare at your lips now and wonder what they say. After forty years of marriage our need for words has washed away. And yet now I ache for words: for the feel and touch of your voice, a gentle caress that will never reach me again.


Formerly a University scientist, Hugh is now retired and living in the Pacific Northwest, where writing provides a diversion from his doomed attempts to grow Canadian oranges. His stories have appeared in Nature Futures, Foxglove Journal, Meniscus, The Drabble, and elsewhere. Email: hscart[at]telus.net