On the plane, thirty-two thousand feet clear of the everyday, I slip my hand underneath my wife’s hand, wrap a bandage of fingers around her fingers, and tell her that I love her. Not that she hears it, for it is not audible, not spoken. There are so many moments of complacency and distraction between two people, so many demands on the individual parts of body and soul. This is the person who engages harmoniously with all of those separate components.

This seems as good a definition of love as any that I know.

I love you. How that phrase has become marred by life in all its forms. Bad literature. The tyrannies of television. The people that meet, the people that fuck, the people that part. Blighted by the corny and the horny. How very frail a phrase it is; indeed, in such poor health that I can’t bear to utter those words now, especially not now. Now, in this perfect moment.

The three window covers in front of us have been lowered. Through our window, I look out over a bank of clouds, no longer above but below us, and shiver a little at such an extraordinary reversal of the quotidian. I love you. What courage it took to give voice to those words for the first time to someone you feared you might actually feel them for. I love you. The joy and magic of speaking words that bond you so hermetically close to another, that deliver you from that thing you feel so keenly. That thing which can be phrased only once for it to contain a particular desired quality and effect; that thing which can never quite be said the same way ever again. And so it is that its repetition must bear itself out in new ways.

I pull the cover: close clouds, sky, outside; resist its obvious wonder. I think she catches me smile – here, treading the waters of reverie – and through that gesture of upturned mouth and dimpled cheek, and via this wrap of flesh around flesh, I try to say something so much louder than the dull echo of those three limp syllables.

She is smiling too. Her gaze holds mine for a second and then it sails away and falls opposite, finds the window: once more to the clouds, which pout with orange edges.