I remember the day I returned your name to you, it flew from my mouth to yours and simultaneously, our bodies were thrown back in time, kisses that once flew from my mouth to yours compressing backwards, by the tens and hundreds. I fall through time, recoiling from the impact of my own love. Something in the fabric of the universe is torn and I see the denim couch unfraying, my hair redacting itself, an opposite erasure, coloring in the gray, regaining fullness.
There’s something about the way we say a name that belongs in part to us. Hundreds of others have the same name, but I mean you even when I’m talking to them, and even now, my voice still catches. There’s an intimacy, an implication in the tone of love, or blame, or some combination of both. Those two always seem to be in cahoots together, inseparable, unlike humans, so easily yoked or unstitched with a signature, a name. You shrugged out of our ill-fitting relationship, a marriage that shrunk or became bloated, too oversized. I’m not sure which. I’m too tired for this shit. It’s getting late in life, and I can’t keep recoiling from our impact, falling backwards. I sit on the frayed denim couch, redacting and editing our past, trying to allot blame without love. My life has bloated with nostalgia, shrunk to an aerial view of our relationship, and I’m still trying on a new old name, trying to figure out how to color in the gray, regain fullness.
I’m anticipating that, as new friends, we might go to movies and museums together, or just generally experience anything together, and I’m scared that I will feel pressure to be interesting and to have thoughts about things even though I know I will probably have thoughts since I’m a human but I’m already feeling this intense cranial pressure on the side of my eardrum and maybe I will have a nosebleed and my hearing is going in and out and I want to lay on the ground and just be still- I guess I’m just letting you know that I think I am a bland block of tofu in a soup of miso miasma and I am fine with it until someone else comes along and I feel like I should be a crunchy takoyaki ball full of flavor and texture and profound inner depth but I can only be a bland block of tofu, not even deep fried first for flavor, not even cooked or the extra firm kind, just raw crumbling pasty tofu the color of legs that haven’t seen the sun in 13 months dumped straight from the container left to flounder among the seaweed bits clinging to a scallion floatation device hoping no one will notice that I’ve had an accident and was born uninteresting.
In some ways, I think I’m still recovering from all those years of walking into a classroom and seeing dozens of blue green eyes swivel towards me, their blonde hair flashing as they turned, a sudden movement dazing me in the doorway. Years of smellier and soggier food than the perfectly prepackaged Lunchables everyone else had. Speaking perfect English all day, I remember being shocked in the bathroom mirror by my own black hair, round yellow face, and small brown eyes. And eventually, one of you took me home and I thought after all these years, almost a decade, of forgetting, denying, and conditioning myself, I had made it, had finally become white or something close enough to it. You took me to your perfectly prepackaged split-level Lunchables home, with your perfect and accepting parents who wanted to take us all out to an authentic Chinese restaurant and we got to the restaurant and you all wanted me to order for you so I did, and then you had all these conditions. You wanted the dish I ordered, but with less oil, and no spice, and I thought, you are always going to do this, you are always going to want me on your terms, change me to your preference, diluting my culture, and myself, something I’ve done since I was old enough to see that I was other. Well, the sheen of your collective lustrous yellow hair has worn off, rubbed off in patches as on an elk’s antlers and I see that you’re just another white boy using me to make your life more interesting, to make you seem more interesting and I’m just another girl who gave up her power because she didn’t think she had any.
Breaks my heart to see you again, to see you walking through that door, stooping a little to fit, hugging your shoulders in as you hunch inward and look for me. I’m already in the rounded corner booth, having gotten there extremely ahead of the agreed-upon time so that I can gather my composure, have enough time to seem completely at ease to see you when really I’m sticky all over with sweat, hair plastered to the side of my head, made even more sticky by my awareness that this isn’t at all how I wanted you to see me again and already I feel bloated from the sparkling water I ordered to pass the time. I wave you over and as you walk over, waves break over me- I’m drowning in a half-pipe of how you walk, how you look, how you look at me. You awkwardly inch in, doing the scoot slide scoot slide on these leather half shells. Does anyone have an easy time or look good getting into these kinds of seats? Last time we were here, we had a great time until we got into a heated political debate, one where you knew everything and were ruthlessly trying to educate me by going on a search and destroy of my ignorance. I was drunk, on wine and on you, just trying to hold on, desperately trying to please you, impress you, wishing my love (though a love that couldn’t quote Noam Chomsky, that didn’t know about foreign government or healthcare systems) could be enough for you. You left me there and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that not enough for someone. I finished my drink and in the next 4 years, I slowly became the girl you would have actually liked to have been at the bar with. Ain’t that life though, how it always goes. Today, I could have told you then, thereby saving us for now, that what is civilized is damaged. You broke me to make me and the process of your making and breaking made me perfect for you, but was too much for us, made any further relationship impossible, our relationship the kiln of our uncoupling.
watching her text in the front seat with trembling arthritic hands like she’s trying to find where to thread the needle to another human connection,I’m struck with love pity and understanding,the phone and the internet all just a jumble,a scry and a screech trying to answer this question we all have which is when will I have this great love I felt I was made for
I sit on a long tongue of blank carpet waiting for the ceremony to begin. Listening to the gentle sts-sts-sts of the bamboo whisks striking thin bone, we look at each other. I find her expression difficult to read. This was all her idea. Initially, I was just concerned about the logistics- the cost of having to fly everyone to Japan. I didn’t even think about the difficulty we would all have involving language. For this reason it took much longer finding the chashitsu for the wedding. And of course, there were other cultural things we had to consider. I was doubtful, for instance, that we would be allowed to have a wedding like this. I was certain some kind of cultural police would put a stop to it, could still put a stop to it. And yet, it was going quite nicely. We looked at each other from across the tatami floor where the long green carpet unspooled between us. I liked the concepts of Sabi and Wabi I learned in Japan the first couple days here and ended up incorporating them into my vows, written with the aid of too much Suntory Toki. I wrote something about wanting to see the beauty imparted onto each other by time and care while also cherishing our unpolished selves, enjoying the present with each other. Overall, it was a great wedding. I enjoyed it. I had never been to Japan, much less participated in a Japanese Tea Ceremony, and I don’t know when else I would have been able to do either. Mostly, I enjoyed it because, well, no harm telling you now that it’s done. It was her idea to get married. Initially, I was just concerned about the logistics- the cost of having to bind your life to another irrevocably. But I became certain in my decision to propose when she walked down the aisle, and we faced each other. Lifting the veil, I saw in her eyes the same dislike, distrust, and fear that I felt. Dislike because this society makes us believe we should hold onto only one of 7 billion inhabitants. Distrust and fear in a future together, in one another, and in the word “forever.” And when I saw that, I knew. This is someone I can spend the rest of my life with.