How We Lost Us

We talked about the men who put a lock on the door. Early days, and all we could think about was... nothing. We couldn't think, we were so scared. And that turned into its own sort of communication. We'd curl up on lazy afternoons together, and fall asleep watching movies we both hated. Within the impossibility of our predicament, every hour turned into a lazy afternoon, so there were plenty of movies. Of afternoons spent snoozing in each other's arms, thinking this was the best thing in the whole wide world. We became a universe unto ourselves, and started hoping that the lock would never come off. Gradually, things got strange. We stopped talking to friends. Days when we'd just let our phones ring out for hours on end, while we talked, or did laundry, or said nothing together. We became mundane, and reveled in every minute of it. In the minuteness of our existence. Our necessities and our needs, words we use interchangeably. Yet, as we discovered once the lock was attached to our door, carried two very different meanings, indeed. For a while, we were content taking care of our necessities. Was there bottled water? Toilet paper? Fresh fruit? Egg dye? On and on our list of wants and craves went. The more we stayed in, the more inventive we became. Sometimes, we'd ask for the strangest thing, only for the other to talk us out of this seeming imperative. By then, we'd become so estranged from ourselves, we could've been just about anyone. Bottle caps without bottles. Empty toilet paper rolls. Clothes off hangers. Stray hairs dangling off the bathroom sink. Toenails in the dishrag. And love. So much love for this sudden shot at intimacy. An intimacy we might've never allowed ourselves, were it not for the lock on the door. Things grew stale after a while. Necessities gave way to needs. We started talking about what we wanted, and soon enough, that turned into what we thought we needed. I told you our list was growing more and more exuberant and strange, and that somehow got us thinking we might deserve something more. Suddenly, there were needs no longer being met, and those, in turn, spiraled into unmitigated disasters. Open fires on our kitchen counter, and pestilence in our once-shared bed. Overnight, the intimacy we'd so revered went bad, and smelled disgusting. Suddenly, neither of us could come within a mile of the thing, and yet, we had to. Sometimes, we'd go check. On our own, and in the dark, at first. A subtle tiptoe across the house. The floor dusty and speckled with coffee spills. Sticky linoleum under our feet, and then, a twist of the knob. A jaded click that went no further than the last time. After a while, we grew less discreet with our need for escape. We started checking during the day, and often, even when the other was present. Somehow, “I need to get away from you” was no longer something strange and inappropriate. It was just another thing we heard in lockdown. But the door stayed locked, and weeks spiraled into months, spiraled into eternities. The world outside grew hot. We imagined sizzling pavement underneath our feet. Running in the summer rain, clothes sticking to skin. Smell of the ocean, and the long ride home. We remembered the taste of sea salt. We shared dreams of kissing strangers. For a brief while, it felt like we were on the same side again. Like, after weeks of not talking, of needing something the other could no longer give, like we were finally back to who we'd been in the beginning. We no longer anticipated and rejoiced at each other's demands, yet we still cherished the other's bizarre necessities. We remembered there had been great love, once, before the lock came on, and things in the outside world no longer made sense. But we were no longer the people who never fought, and our truces were always short-lived. After a day, two, or even just a few hours of harmony, we'd go back to being sullen, each one in their own, private corner of the house. No longer a shared journey, but suddenly a mutually inhabited ordeal. Towards the end, we remembered love. We talked about the first time we met, and marveled at the two strangers now acting out the memory inside our minds. In the last few weeks, there was no more acrimony. No more resentment, or blame. Not for each other, no, we'd long since gotten over blaming ourselves, or the other, for not really being the person we thought they might be. What I mean is, by the end, we no longer blamed the absurdity of the situation for pointing out something that would have, in time, been inevitable. Then one day, the lock came off. There was no ceremony, and no great pomp. One of us just turned the knob, and the door came open. And when we looked behind, there was no more “we”. But it was alright now, because the wait was over, and suddenly, we could once more afford to need things, and not just necessitate. We said goodbye. One of us went out, and then, the one who was left, got up and closed the door.


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