Kostova is at her best in the details

My life was mostly touch in those days – I suppose his was color and line, so that we couldn’t see each other’s worlds very well, or he couldn’t quite feel my presence. All day long I touched the clean plates and bowls as I put them away, and the children’s heads slimy under shampoo in the tub, and the softness of their faces, and the scrape of poop off their goose-pimpling backsides, the hot noodles, the heavy wet laundry as I threw it into the dryer, and the brick front steps as I sat reading to myself for eight minutes while they played just beyond the page in the prickling new grass, and then when one of them fell down I touched the grass and the mud and the scraped knee, and the sticky Band-Aids, and the wet cheek, and my jeans, and the dangling shoelace.


When Robert came home from teaching, I touched his brown sweater and his curling, separating locks of hair, his stubbly chin, his back pockets, his calloused hands. I watched him lift up the children and felt just by seeing it how his rough face bushed their delicate ones and how that pleased them. He seemed completely there with us at those moments, and his touch was the proof of this. If I wasn’t exhausted from the day, he touched me to keep me awake a little longer, and then I reached for his smooth, hairless flanks and the soft, crisp hair between his legs, his flat, perfect nipples. He seemed to stop looking at me then and to finally enter my world of touch, in that moving space between us, until we closed the gap with a fiery familiarity, a routine of release. In those days I always felt covered with secretions, the dripping milk, the spray on my neck when I changed Oscar a few minutes too early, the foam on my thighs, the saliva on my cheek.

Maybe this was why I was converted to touch and left the world of vision, why I stopped drawing and painting after al those years of doing it nearly every day. My family, the way they licked and chewed me, kissed me and pulled at me, spilled things on me – juice, urine, semen, muddy water. I washed myself again and again, I washed mountains of laundry, I changed the beds and the breast pads, I scrubbed and wiped the bodies. I wanted to get clean again, to clean all of them, but in the moment before I had the energy to wash everything, there was always another kind of goodness, an immersion.
(pages 184-186)
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