there is no other version of this story. i write about my heart and you swallow it like pomegranate seeds. i hold my tongue and wait for a familiar dent on the bedsheet. soft-spoken murmurs, scattered freckles under a hogged blanket, your small back heaving a drowsy good night. i close my eyes and picture you, striding down the crossroads when the light is still red. me, waving at the crowd mistaking someone else’s shirt for yours. stupid, i know, you’ve told me that, which is beside the point because i am thinking of tonight’s dinner—that’s all i do when i’m with you: think, sometimes about the inevitabilities, other times about your freshly laundered shirt—you can stay the night if you want to, i said. both of us know better about what lies beneath the subtext.
you spend the night, like always. i clean our plates and leave you borrowing my toothbrush and soap in the bathroom. once the water runs to a halt, we dry each others’ hair with my towel. comb tangled in my hair, taylor swift’s august blasting on the edge of my desk. your cacti, my carpet, our cutlery; i love that my dormitory is yours as much as it is mine.
i’m thinking: last week i wept and dragged myself in front of the mirror—there’s something about its intensity, it’s frequency—and i swear to god it wasn’t me trying to invoke self-pity. maybe that’s the thing about mirror; an object of self-witness, and i wanted to feel witnessed by someone who can mimic this shame.
what comes out: it’s late, let’s sleep.
what can i do to make it stop? you ask. nothing. it’s all there is, isn’t it? someone demands an answer to their unconventionality and gets a pair of middle fingers back. we sway on a castle built of ignorance, unknowing of its tumbling ruins. what i want to say is i can’t face you like this—under the light when everyone’s looking—when what we have is reserved for the dark.
let’s run, i whisper. the room is dark and your face blurs into the background. sometimes it’s better like this; to indulge in my deliberate ignorance of what’s waiting for us out there. where? you answer. anywhere, everywhere—cities and countries are dead dots on the map. you’re here, and so am i. everything is a matter of importance and you know who i’d cut my tongue for.
aren’t we all the same? in our hunger, i mean. the desire to reach out and have someone meeting you in the middle. to see the other and find more than eyes and unspoken lines between a tight lip. this is me trying, i guess, which you can easily translate to i don’t know what to make of this soft wrongness. but there was a time when i would rather feel shame than to have you by my side; i would rather look at the mirror and see all the faults than to have you—face open and beautiful—as a warm dent on my bed.
suppose i were to begin with a dream of people whose bodies are similar to mine. i see a photo of couples on instagram and gag on its conventionality. there’s a 3-months old wedding invitation on my desk from a cousin whose name no longer rings a bell. my internet friends know your favorite bra and least-liked vegetables and it’s good; they know you but they don’t know you well enough to perceive you more than the image i provide. it’s gratifying to see you as an extension of me and i hope you’re doing the same thing. burning bridges is our favorite pastime activity and i’m singing as you throw the matchstick. jumping from this two-stories building and running to the forest. crawling under trees because the moon knows what we’re hiding. i’m sorry. i know that it’s always a circle with me. i say i’m sorry when i know you don’t like me apologizing. i wish we could lay here and call it a day, you know? let’s stop fighting—stop trying to prove something—you’re tired and i’m at the end of my strings. it should be enough. to make something beautiful should be enough. it isn’t. it should be. they say we are confused—they say you are something that i’ll get over in years—and yet i’ve never been truer in this defeat.
sciamma was right to say that all lovers invent something when they’re together. i keep my fallen eyelashes every time you’re away from me. i’m counting the white dents in my nails to prove you exist. like conventional lovers, we’re in this continuous pursuit to find the ultimate truth of countless variables that brings us here. call it folklore, call it mythology, i don’t care as long as there’s us within the axis of it.
philia, the greek said, a close friendship. an apt description of two people who are so alike—so in love—the world calls them friends. listen, i look up to the sky believing that there’s something bigger that leads us here. a divine being, i hope, although as far as i know, i am nothing but an animal waiting to be savaged in their slaughterhouses. listen, i don’t want to have a clean end. i hope they cut me apart; gnaw my ribs open and play me like a human cello. i hope they listen to the morse code my heart speaks that only repeats your name, over and over like an old record. only by then i’ll laugh—laugh so loud it reverberates around the altar and ceiling—and kiss your mouth open, blood spilling sweet like a fine wine. my dear—oh, my dear—they forgot one thing—one reserved for people like us—that suffering can feel holy when you do it right.
(believe me when i said that it wasn’t me i hand over to you—it would’ve been too easy—what i hand over is you—the sunburnt nape, the bruised palms, the slack-jawed mouth—loved in every part)
Art: Swim by Holly Warburton