It's almost time again for inspection, and so I go with you to the pier. The barber shop beside the exchange is close and muggy. When the clippers turn on with their canned muted hum you close your eyes and I am free to watch you without that twinge of shyness I get when I stare at you for too long and you catch me looking.
I still fear sometimes that if I look too often I'll finally see what I see on other men's faces, the faint reproach, the flicker of resignation. I know I am not much on the surface but there is more to me, not buried very deep. You uncovered it that day you stood with the Puget Sound up to your knees, laughing. I doubt you even remember the day. I do.
The woman with the clippers is efficient, as all base barbers are. I don't have much time to look. Your hands lying on the armrests curl in their unconsciousness. The hard angular apple of your throat gives your neck a crooked appearance, echoes the angle of the constellation of tiny moles below your jaw. My eyes stay on the shape of your mouth, wide and long and tipped up at the ends, so even as you sit relaxed and unaware you seem to be smiling. Your hair falls down in great soft tufts of ash. The barber shop on the pier is a terrible place to tell you how much I love you, and anyway you've heard it all before.
Too soon she's brushing stray hairs from the back of your neck; I drop my eyes again to my reading so you won't know how long I stared. Outside the wide orange bellies of the ice breakers lean over us and settle against their moorings, and seem to pull the pier into their familiar hulls the way you pull my body to yours, your arm a strong line around my shoulders.