In Search of the Rest of Us

We talked instead of breathing all that summer, so why can’t I name a single thing about you? I tried to describe what you looked like and I could only remember the sugary heaviness of your cologne and a decision to use more exclamation points when you told me I wasn’t friendly. Sometimes I wonder if I listen closely enough. What were you saying that day we lay in the park for the whole afternoon? I can still taste how carefully I chose my words and for a minute, I think I wished I were a daffodil. I have to admit: I hated when you asked me to critique your artwork. “Your honest opinion,” you’d repeat every time, so why did it all fall apart when I finally replied, “Have you thought of using less paint?”

In Greek mythology, we’re created as halves. We’re missing our other side, destined to spend our lives searching for it. And yet, it seems women were the only ones let in on this secret. Or, at least, the only ones who carry it with them — the ones who feel the hollow ache where the puzzle piece should fit, nursing the emptiness like a phantom limb.

This emptiness materializes as we imagine sprawling futures for even the most fleeting of connections; as we’re left grasping when things end. We tell ourselves not to — that’s clingy, stupid, silly. I don’t care, we’ll chant to ourselves, like a mantra, adjusting our faces to what we think casual looks like. And afterward: get over it, you’re fine by yourself. You’ve survived this long, haven’t you? It’s not that we’re less capable — more an inability to separate intimacy from touch (why should we?) Hands that want holding, lips always pursed for a kiss.

I think this is also why every girl has a name on the tip of her tongue when you ask her who her best friend is. Why she can spend hours on the phone with that person deliberating an outfit choice or discussing a song lyric. Really, she’s filling the gap where that other half should be, if temporarily, letting the person on the other end of the line know she cares. That they’re not alone. That when she’s not fine by herself, she’ll have someone to turn to, even if it’s just to mull over which color suits her face best.

It feels like a curse sometimes, that missing half — days when you just want to slap yourself into not caring. Twist your brain into stoicism, your smile into indifference. But sometimes, I think maybe the world needs people who think like we do. There has to be someone who feels that tug, like a magnet, towards the people around her. Without it, I think we’d all just be brushing past each other, intimate moments ephemeral and robotic as we all move forward throughout our days, the air just a little bit chillier on the other end of the phone line.

You like to fuck me
With your eyes closed, hand
Splattered across my cheek like a starfish.
Just let me lead, you said once.
So when I slap you, it’s too much.
Don’t do that.
It’s not your thing.

You like to talk about the shows you’ve booked — not the poems I’ve published —
Because you’re the artist between us.
I’m your cheerleader, the loudest spectator
Clapping the theater full.
And yeah, I’ll always bite my tongue
When I can top your joke,
Because funny isn’t my thing.
I’m goofy, silly, fun, but not
It’s not easy to hold an audience.

Remember the time you wore the tight pants with the white shoes
And I said you could pull them off?
Remember when I said you looked cute
When you didn’t want to leave the house?
Maybe you forgot that when I wore those cut-offs and
You said I might want to change.
That I don’t have to try so hard to dress the part:
Am I not getting enough attention?

I guess my point is, I’m sorry about the time I got us lost,
Or when I flirted with the DJ at the bar.
I’m sorry that I spilled beer all over my dress,
and I’m sorry that a splash got on your shirt.

But I’m not sorry that your friends were spilling their beers to
Drink the last of my punchline,
or that I probably did need some more attention.
I’m not sorry that I’m a creator too, and sometimes,
I wondered if you really were the artist between us.
I’m not sorry that you could have learned something from me,
I’m just sorry I didn’t say it.

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