Youre going to need love someday. You’ll need a content body molded naked into your own. Youll need empty bars and rainy evenings and lonely winters. Beach trips with strange boys and friendships with strangers and new poems and old writings and a kiss on the forehead more than those sticky kisses in corners. You will breathe for another person and this person will need you to exist. When you meet them, youll wonder how you havent been gasping for air all along.
We are both girls, true, but it’s like saying that a nectarine and a watermelon are both fruit. She’s a little tart rolling over the tongue, creamy; I crumble in the mouth, wet and rough.
And just like that, the conversation was over. To articulate his point, he brought the razor to his face and ran it along his jawline. Suddenly, the stubble I had grown so used to was gone, a new distant memory. It was no longer the gravel roads traveled in the summer. It was the less private, smooth interstates — where it was harder to stop if we had to. There was a line we crossed, unknown to either of us, and getting past it was going to be the biggest roadblock we had met until then. Even after so long without a problem, this brought back every bitter word, every spewed sentence that stung so badly I could still feel them heavy in my chest. Without my notice, all the shaving cream was gone from his face, along with the short hairs that left marks on my neck and bare shoulders. He was starting fresh, and I didn’t know if I was invited on this road trip.
I would like to think of it that way— that I am someone whom people look past on, someone not really noticeable, not an eye-catcher. And then some, a very few actually, people I can count with my fingers will take the time to sit with me and open my ordinary wrap, unfurl my closed petals, unfold me like a creased paper, reach the edges of my soul as if I am a forgotten compartment at the bottom of the cabinet. I would like to think that my secrets— so beautiful and sacred and thrilling to hear— are tucked within the roots of my hair, under the slip of my tongue, throbbing beneath the coating of my pulse, through the black of my eyes. My secrets are secrets and they are beautiful no matter how distorted and cruel and crazy they might seem to be, they are mine and they make me, me. I would like to think of it that way— that I am someone just waiting for another to sit beside me and read me like a dusty old book and uncover the hidden things I carefully keep and marvel at the wonder of something so mundane yet intricate at its simplicity. I would like to think that I will be a discovery. I am a discovery. And I feel bad for all those who are missing out on me.
“I found the rest of me in you.” you’d said, but I hadn’t asked you why you love me. I hadn’t said anything at all.
Early spring and you toss this at me. The moon was behind the clouds so I couldn’t see your face, only feel it. I found the rest of me in you, these words a perfectly placed whisper at the base of my neck. You’d leaned down without slowing your stride and mother never noticed.
Mother was there, and the dog. She’d slipped us each a beer and took us on a walk. We talked about depression because you’d had it, I’d had it and our brothers have it. We were gone for hours. We were eighteen.
Well that was fifteen years ago. Two college degrees ago. That was a diamond ring ago, a wedding ago, a gorgeous wedding ago. That was a child ago. A kitchen fire ago, a cancer treatment ago. That was two apartments ago, nine Thanksgivings with my family and six Thanksgivings with your family ago. A car accident ago and six European vacations ago. Fifteen years of happiness to last three lifetimes. We are thirty-three.
We are sitting in your parent’s sun room in North Carolina, they’ve just about settled in. Milton is gone. Liam is six, we’re trying for our second still. Your father is out getting his blood-work done because his counts are off again, Liam is off helping your mother paint the guest bathroom. My mother won’t stop calling because she hates to be apart at Christmas.
The orange juice is freshly squeezed because your mother is the sweetest and the wicker bench cushions are warmer where the sun reaches them. The marmalade compliments the fruit just fine, the tea is as English as ever.
You’re drinking your French press and the Carolina breeze is slight but it ruffles your hair as it did when you were a boy. I smile because you still haven’t started to go gray. Not even around the edges. Your toe meanders and presses down on mine like it has since we were eighteen and I’m still not sure whether you realize you do that.
“You should call your mom,” you say, and I nod. I let the silence sit a little longer because it’s comfortable and settling. I sip my coffee, swallow slowly and stand.
“I found the rest of me in you,” I say, and I ruffle your hair further. Our tag line.
After all these years those words are still there at the base of my neck. Truer at thirty-three than at eighteen. I leave you to the Carolina breeze and my touch and the French press, I call my mother to wish her a Merry Christmas.
I love you, I own your name. It belongs wrapped within my mouth—like seaweed. Caressed by my tongue, bumping against my teeth in waves. Your name is the rain in my throat, your name is the sunshine between my molars.
We can play Rumplestiltskin; wear rumples of each others vowels, tilt the sounds, lock the letters from ever touching another’s skin. Because your name follows every sentence in a trailing whisper, a feathering of enchantment and smudged smoke, I let the universe know that I am spoken for. I exhale while paying for groceries and the aging bagger gives me a knowing smile, someone’s name slipping in and out of her lips. I inhale while walking with friends and the pubescent boys we pass look away from my mouth to my stomach to the ground. Your name is the pebble in my mouth I forever roll over, savoring the salinity of your soul.
This is essential. Your name is my worst kept secret, everyone knows. They look at me, watercolors in their eyes bleeding into ‘you poor sad thing’. I cannot stand it when others—especially women—utter your name. I’ve cursed myself. I love you. I own your name. It is mine, it makes me beautiful, full. Come, kiss me. Taste your name on my name. This salt of the earth.
I French Kissed My Way Into History
expecting it to taste like crusades,
those holy wars you
were always going on about.
maybe like plagues,
to my lips as I broke free
and looked up, realizing
I was kissing Death instead.
Maybe of glory and gold.
Leaving my eyes wide
that haven’t been made yet,
but it just tasted of
stale parchment, dried
and flaking ink that came away
on my fingertips
until the words were lost, scraped clean
and it was just me, waking up
with crumpled papers left
in my hands.