When we were born we just found each other that way. We didn’t have a choice to be anything else. And then when we arrived, cross-legged, jagged-brained, blowing out smoke on a stranger’s stoop, we had no choice, either. I didn’t know if we were something beautiful or not, something evil or not. I thought about how awful it must have seemed, the way we passed around the cigarette from one hand to the other, both of our hands, making two in all, stretching up arms that led to the same human torso. We were skilled at being one, but knew in our hearts that we were two.
I had never seen our mother before, only knew her. I knew the plotting, shrieking, ugly thing inside her but never the outside. Born blind and split, I was. Couldn’t see. Not whole. And she reminded us. Reminded me so bad that it made me happy that I could make my whole world invisible. I would never know how evil we looked. Reminded me so much that we cried every night until she couldn’t take the wet tears, the dripping sniffling dirty tears anymore and drove us away. Far. And we were scared and I couldn’t see where I was. We found a stoop, rough and large. And the first thing we did was pray.
We knelt down together, in sync like clouds, and touched together our shivering hands to make a whole pair. We sent up silent words. Words that would hit somewhere and reverberate, echo and send a response. Words that would propel something toward us, to save us. Save us.
We huddled ourselves tightly in our loose sweatshirt that had stringy holes on the ribs. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see us there, to see us at all, then to see anything but us. All I saw was the empty space; my body’s doing. It had done many unforgivable things; it made me the way I was.
What was a man then? A dark voice, a long body. I had heard that a man was defined by a grin. I had never seen a grin but the word sounded dark. I had felt the course baby hairs on a man’s hand before. He was older, stronger, by the weight of his palm. He was something called my father, all those years ago.
But I heard your voice like soft clay molding delicately, like soft clay gathering dust. You were a man. A man walking down a street with a jumbled shuffle. The dusty winter voice in you told us we were divine. You called us pretty. You said you wanted us. Wanted to have us. To keep us in a basement and do things to us. You told us not to be afraid. And you grazed my bulging cheek with your hand and I felt the baby hairs of what they called my father who was a man and you were a man and it felt good and I just –
We said no. I didn’t, at least. The other part of me, the more reserved part, the part that kept quiet until it needed to be stern, the part of me that could see, declined you. That part of me said you grinned at her and shuffled on. A drunkard, she called you.
And I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to stand up right then so she would have to stand, too, and I wanted to yell. I wanted to chase you down the street, wrap my arms around you, and tell you you could have me and my hideous body because it wasn’t going anywhere else. It was wretched; it was stranded, mutilated, cut in half, alone, ditched, defunct. And you wanted it. And I wanted you to want it. But I remember that you just grinned and walked away and that I should have known my place. So I sat in silence.
I heard your uneven footsteps grow softer and softer and vanish. There was no sky for me, I felt the material things. I felt the rough concrete on my palms. I felt my half of my body aching with hunger. I knew no one was going to come save us. I heard a million people walk by us. I heard them gasp. The cool dusk voice lingered in my ears and I felt the want in it.
And I remember how beautiful I felt then.
As published in the Lion’s Eye literary magazine (Fall 2010) and The Perspective news magazine (November 2010)