Love is an interesting concept. I’m not sure I quiet grasp it – especially romantic love. All of a sudden, we stop being a “me” and we start being a “we.” What’s one is the other’s. Thoughts and feelings and decisions and plans start becoming a topic of discussion rather than a choice you just make. Love is about union. About sharing. About belonging to one another. But is it ever really possibly to posses another person? Little chalky candy hearts proclaim it is – “BE MINE!” they shout as loud as any candy has ever shouted. “Be Mine” is the theme of the holiday, and the theme of our stories.
Dollar store chocolates. On sale dollar store chocolates. We put on a movie.
“Raspberry. Eww. Do you want it?”
“No. Want my coconut?”
“I guess. What’s this one?” She points at a dark round one.
“I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.” I take a bite. “It’s gross too.”
“If I ever get a boyfriend, he’s going to buy me expensive chocolates. And teddy bears. I want roses, too. He’s going to be so romantic.”
“Okay.” She has this idealized version of a man that doesn’t exist. She always spouts off this long fictional list of what her one-day, long-awaited boyfriend will have.
He’ll be emo.
He’ll be rich.
He’ll hate his parents, like she does.
He’ll give creamy kisses.
He’ll want to marry her right away.
He’ll take care of her.
He’ll be a little nutty.
He’ll teach her how to drive.
He’ll wear eyeliner.
He’ll listen to Green Day.
No, now he’ll listen to Fall Out Boy.
He’ll be sweet.
He’ll be romantic.
He’ll take charge.
He’ll be dark.
He’ll always text her back.
He’ll visit her at work with surprise lunches.
He’ll get her flowers to brighten her day.
He’ll pick her up from school when she gets out of class early and won’t make her wait.
He’ll want 2.5 kids.
He’ll worship capitalism.
He’ll be milky and smooth.
He’ll spoil her.
He’ll love her.
He’ll understand her every need.
He’ll be a little crunchy.
He’ll melt in her hand.
He’ll watch all of her reality T.V. shows.
He’ll tell her she’s perfect.
She wants all of these things in one person. She is unforgiving. She is unrelenting. She insists he will be hers. This mythical creature is both beautiful and horrible. No man can live up to this image. But what do I know? Whenever I doubt her monstrosity of man, this is the question I’m greeted with.
Her list grows every year. She’s 20. She’s my sister. Right now she doesn’t have him, she only has me. So we get dollar store chocolates and we watch movies and I listen and I don’t agree. I just nod my head and try another chocolate.
“This one is toffee. It’s crunchy. It’s good.”
– Amanda Riggle
She kneaded my abdomen. “How long have you been experiencing pain?” I was clay.
“A few weeks.”
She peeled off her gloves like fruit rinds, all elbows and moles.
“How often? After meals? After exercising?”
“Most mornings. I usually feel nauseous riding the bus to campus.”
Her face changed, as if she recognized the word in Hangman, gaps in its teeth. “Is there a possibility you’re pregnant?”
The exam room leaped to life, pulsing and yellow. “That I’m what?” But I didn’t want her to say it again. “No.”
“Are you sexually active?”
“Well, yes.” My heart sprinted. “But we practice safe sex.” Dirty and safe.
“Let’s do a pregnancy test. I’ll put in a lab order.” She sat in front of the computer.
I was levitating, suspended in midair.
“You, uh, you think I could be pregnant?” I couldn’t keep the words in my mouth.
“It sounds like you’re having morning sickness.”
I hated her, from her small bones to her short hair, flat like trampled lawn. How could she say it sounds like I have cancer so matter-of-factly, say it sounds like I might end? I waited, changed and stunned and stinging and full of barbs.
She walked me to the lab, and a parasite, a stranger, squatted in my belly.
My heart never slowed from its wild beat when the technician sank a needle into my arm, when he told me to wait in the lobby for half an hour, when he led me back to the exam room.
“She’ll be in with your results,” he said.
I waited, slack, a mess without bones. I tried to think. It wasn’t just that college was the worst time to be responsible for–own, really–another human being. I had never wanted kids, and to hell with anyone who said I would or should. It wasn’t just the warping of my body, the housing of an alien, the pain of childbirth; it wasn’t just the syrupy ropes of drool and the goddamn noise; it wasn’t just the tantrums and the messes.
Footsteps neared the exam room. I felt sick. They got louder, smack-smack , and passed, smack-smack.
This time, I tried not to think. I thought anyway.
It wasn’t just the financial costs and the sacrificing of my solitude; it wasn’t just getting it wrong or the damn thing breaking my heart; it wasn’t just adding another burden to this groaning earth or having a child who would face climate change full force.
Maybe it’d be all me: big eyes, consume music like dessert, lover of books and sun. Or maybe it wouldn’t: good posture, always on time, cooking and sports enthusiast. I would love it either way. I would love her either way.
Footsteps. Knock. Door, this was it. The doctor led with a shoulder.
No, it wasn’t that I didn’t want her to belong to me. It was that I didn’t want to belong to her.
– Missy Lacock
My father and his wife, Kim, were already in the terminal when we arrived. My father ushered Chris and I to an empty section of chairs. We sat there together, my dad’s arm draped around my shoulders. I leaned into the crook of his arm. It felt like the end of something, or the start.
“I’m so proud of you,” he told me. I looked up at him, the tears welling in his eyes. He moved his arm, wiped at his face with his sleeve. I looked away, at Kim, her bright, white smile, broad shoulders, and pixie-like hair. It was the first time I had seen her in over a year. I’m proud of you. I’m so proud of you. The word, proud, sitting on my tongue like a marble. Sometimes it felt like all there ever was, was pride.
“We should get going,” she said, resting her hand on my father’s arm. Her frostbitten eyes locking with mine. “Let them say goodbye to each other.”
Back in the parking lot, I puffed on a joint Chris rolled earlier, just for the occasion.
“What did my father tell you?” I croaked, holding the smoke in my belly. I passed the joint to him and watched as the air turned hazy and gray. “You shouldn’t do that. There might be cameras.”
“He said—” Chris lifted his hands in the air, like he was beholding a painting. “—‘Thank you for taking care of her all these years.’ I said you’re welcome.” He ran his hand through his hair and eyed me. “God knows it hasn’t been easy.” I rolled my eyes.
“Fuck you,” I said. But I meant to say, I’ll miss this.
When we were done, for the second time, Chris pulled my luggage from the trunk. We walked, our hips pressed against each other, our arms holding on, as we crossed the sky bridge. My head was fog, my feet leading the way. Only thinking about that next step, but not the one after.
“I guess this is where we say goodbye,” I said. We stood just inside the glass doors, the cold, morning air rushing in and out each time they opened.
“I don’t want you to go,” he said. “Do you have to go?” Do you have to? But we both knew I didn’t have to. It was just the next step. I pressed my face into the space below his neck. This is what it feels like to be home, I thought, and to leave it. I’ll be back before you know it, I told him. I’d heard it said before. I wanted to be brave, for him. For me.
“You’re mine, right? You’re not going to forget me?”
“How could I forget you?” I said. “You do realize we’ve been dating for almost a decade? You’re not easy to shrug off.” He smiled and pressed his lips against mine. I pushed him back, squeezing his hand before letting go. “Before I decide not to go,” I told him. I wheeled my luggage down the ramp that curved its way towards the security line. Don’t look back, I told myself, it’ll only make it harder.
– Melanie Figueroa