Sometimes you remember when he was newly formed, built of nothing but stardust and chaos and fallen straight out of the stratosphere, back when you made lists of things to teach him, lists of all the first times he would have with you: the first sip of coffee, or the first day spent in bed, watching the sun slide across the wall.
You didn’t teach him to program a remote, or to make a sandwich: those honors belong to a woman with the moon in her eyes and kindness in her heart; left behind, her name forgotten. You didn’t teach him to wash the dishes after every meal, or to sweep every corner, dust each nook and cranny or to tuck the corners of your sheets firmly under the mattress, and you certainly didn’t teach him how to lean into your kisses, flicking his tongue between your lips.
You didn’t teach him any of these habits, and it still surprises you sometimes with how badly these small thorns sting, that he learned the most fundamental aspects of humanity from someone other than you, everything normal and basic and good, all these things that the two of you might have discovered together, hand in hand.
And so it’s he who teaches you, instead, how to flip a mattress, how to scrub the glass in your windows with vinegar until they shine, how to sprinkle mint across the thresholds to keep the ants at bay; it’s he who teaches you to use a waffle iron, to sort your socks, to hang your faded flannel shirts facing east.
But there are first times, after all: the first stale cherry danish for breakfast, the first slice of pie served on a red-checked tablecloth; the first trailing fingerprints left behind on the dusty glass panes of a diamond-paned window, or the first wilted flower half-dried by the sun on the windowsill, the one you pretend not to notice because you can’t bear to throw it away.
And there are still things left to show him, like how it feels to be held each night by someone who loves him, what it’s like to cry on someone’s shoulder, what it means for you to take his hand and press kisses in his palm.
You’re allowed to teach him how to love, and it’s through your care that he’ll learn that it’s all right to reach for you, whenever he needs the weight of your hand upon his knee, or your fingers dipping through the nimbus of his hair.
And it’s you who’ll teach him what it means to be treasured, because someone needs to, someone needs to love him, someone needs to show him that he’s cared for, appreciated, adored.
You’ll show him each hairline fracture that cracks your heart each time he breathes your name in the quiet darkness of your room, and he’ll stroke the hollows between every aching rib with careful fingers.
And on the first time he whispers I love you, it feels like bottle rockets and firecrackers going off inside your chest.
And all-too soon there will be fewer and fewer firsts, and more seconds and thirds and fourths, but still you’ll always be the first to build a home for him inside your bones, the first to carve a place for him in your heart, the first to rip apart the seams holding your life together, only to tuck him carefully inside and stitch yourself back up.