There are no perfect fits.
I sit at my desk, haunted by the same page—blank but for a single sentence—on my word processor that’s haunted me for months, contemplating my emptiness. I am looking inwards where there used to be words, an endless reservoir I once thought could never run dry, when comes a knock at my door. Opening it, I frown as I see the man with the perfect smile on my front step.
“What do you want?”
“What do you think?”
I cross my arms, defense against the suggestion and the thrill it sends crawling through me.
“I told you not to come here anymore.”
His lips curve upward, flashing those perfectly matching rows of pearls, and for a moment I forget how he broke me.
“Let me in.” He says, in a voice on the edge of song. One that could always move oceans, especially my own.
Yes. Yes. I almost say, but catch myself. “I can’t. I’m writing.”
He shakes his head, like a parent who catches their child in an obvious lie. Which—I suppose—he is. “Babe, I’m your editor. If you’d written a word worth a damn in the last year, I’d know.”
He steps between the door jamb, and I can smell his breath. Cigarettes and mouth wash and… cheap scotch. Only now I notice how he sways, courtesy of the courage he drank to come here. Sliding one arm around my waist, sending half-forgotten tingles through me, he whispers in my ear.
“Let me in.”
“No, I can’t. Tonight might be the-” I trail off mid-sentence. What can I say? Tonight might be the night my stories return. Inspiration may yet appear from the emptiness.
Undeterred, he brushes his lips against my ear. He remembers still how to love me; how to play me like he does all others. And how I long to be played, sometimes. I dare not meet his glance, knowing it will captivate me. I dare not close my eyes, knowing that falling into the pool of memory that contains our previous liaisons will do much the same.
“Yes, perhaps tonight the walls fall, and your words return. But that is no certainty. What is certain-” Here he guides my hand to below his belt, and I feel his surging confidence. “-is the void in you *I* can satisfy.”
Looking in my eyes, he sees me relent, and he tilts my head upwards until our lips touch. The tingles I felt at his embrace fan into flames. We grow against each other, the bad taste of our history fading away. A distant memory when weighed against the immediacy of our need. He backs me into the bedroom, not letting our mouths part for a second, pushing me there as if by muscle memory. Our clothes drop to the floor, and in a moment, for a brief moment, I am indeed filled. The anguish and the doubt, my failure to create, my anger at this beautiful man chased away by the pleasure and the pain of our coupling.
“You bastard. God damn you, you bastard.” I cry softly. He cannot hear me over the rhythms of his drunken ardor. Whether my tears are born of joy or of sadness, I do not know.
Later, in the night, as he snores loudly beside me, I stare past his slumbering form and out the window, up at the blood moon. Pale and red and angry and remote, like our brief passion now when weighed against the cold reality. Any joy I felt at his surprise return to my door fades as the omnipresent truth returns. Tonight he was my again, tomorrow he leaves my life and returns… to her. I will be left with nothing but another bittersweet memory. And the void.
“Look at you,” I mutter to myself, swimming again in my emptiness, “Gorgeous even in sleep.”
I run my hand through his hair, short and dark and soft like down to the touch. He stirs, but does not wake. Closing my eyes, I consider my own ugliness, my fat stunted form cuddled up against his sculpted perfection.
Why are you with me? Someone like me, deformed and unloved. Why must you torment me with unfulfilled hopes and inspire these unrequited thoughts? I wish… I wish…
Glancing back up at the moon, I finish my thought out loud. “I wish I could know your happiness, and you my sorrow.”
Rolling onto my back, the tears return. Silently sobbing, I slip into unconsciousness.
“WHAT THE FUCK!” A scream that is at once familiar and yet impossibly strange wakes me with a start. I am in the wrong place. I somehow switched places with him in the night. The scream came from beside me, and so I turn onto my side… and see my own face staring at me in abject, confused terror. I speak again, quietly this time, for it was my own voice that woke me.
“What—what is hap-” Before I can finish my sentence, by some strange instinct, I roll over on top of myself, clasping my hands with a grip that is bigger and stronger than I remember around my own fat throat. I-He look(s) up at me in gasping fear, fat hands trying to peel away my-his own in vain. Before I even realize, I start screaming in his voice.
“You took everything from me! You bastard!” I begin to understand what has happened, a miracle, a wish. I am become my missing piece. Minutes pass, eventually he-I stop struggling and go limp, glazed eyes open and staring unfocused at the ceiling.
“You took everything… even the words.” I repeat, in a whisper, feeling tired and hollow as I stare impossibly down at my own corpse.
Disturbed by what I have done, by what happened, I leap from the bed with a speed and grace I did not previously possess, and stumble down the hall to the bathroom, still undressed. My head pulses and pounds like I am hungover, but I didn’t drink last night. Did I? A memory flashes through my head. I stand at my own door step, hesitating briefly before I knock, spurred onward by drunken desperation.
I have to see him. I remember thinking. Just one more time. I have to end this life.
The joy, and trepidation, I feel as the door opens and I see my own haggard, disbelieving face, jolts me back to myself. Opening the bathroom door, I look in the mirror and I see the impossibility made truth: his chiseled face stares back at me.
Looking at his-my face, I remember more. Drinking at a bar just down the street from my-his apartment, getting drunker and drunker as I contemplate how to free myself from his-my obsession. I twist the engagement ring on his-my finger as remembrances of our encounters of how my-his words made him-me laugh, twisted his-my heart, completed him-me in a way that no one else ever could. Not even our (our?) fiancée.
And yet he-I must kill me-him. To be free of this obsession, to return to his-my love unencumbered.
So he-I drag(s) our drunken selves up the apartment steps…
Back to the strange face in the mirror, becoming less strange by the minute.
So, the me that is still wholly me thinks, he intended to kill me?
We walk back down the hall to the bedroom, seeing what was my body lying there—tongue lolling and lifeless—is a sight I still cannot process. How that heart beats no longer and yet… I am alive?
In a way, I think, with a rueful grin on my-his… on my strange new face, he succeeded.
Then I hear it. At first I do not recognize the sound, so long it eluded me, but before long it is unmistakable. I take the plunge inward, and where for months there had been only silence, an empty dusty basin devoid of song and of sound, there are a chorus of words. My words. The light of my life, dark for so long, shined once more. I sit back down at my desk and smile at the sentence, my torment:
There are no perfect fits.
And… and… yes! I can. I can! I begin to write.
There are no perfect fits… and that’s okay. We are mere pieces dancing through an emptiness too vast to comprehend, part of a puzzle that is by design incomplete. Our creator, if there is such a thing, is a cruel gameskeeper who has us in a match not meant to be won. But that endless string of loss keeps us searching. That missing fit keeps us hoping that one day—
—our grasp will match our reach.
Then a phone rings. His cell, well… mine now. I step away from the laptop to answer it. I know the name, the man with the perfect smile’s fiancée. My fiancée. For a moment it angers the man I used to be, the sad hollow man who chased an impossible dream, one that filled him for only brief moments. Then I realize she took nothing away from me that I did not gladly relinquish out of fear. The love I craved was never truly mine. So I answer the phone, in his strange, sweet, low tone.
“Hey honey.” It is, I somehow remember, what he called her.
“Babe? Where are you? You didn’t come home after we-we…”
And I also remember the argument, bits and pieces of my dead lover’s life return to me as I need them it seems. They fought before he left her, before he drank up the courage to come and end the part of himself that held him apart from her. Me.
“I… I know. I got drunk and crashed at a friend’s. I needed to calm down and clear my head. We weren’t very good to each other last night were we?” How easy the words are now; how easy it is to become him.
“No,” She laughs, “No I suppose we weren’t. Are you coming home?”
“Yes, let me get rid of this hangover, get something to eat, run a few errands. I’ll be home this afternoon.”
“Okay, I love you.”
“I love you too. See you soon.” I hang up, and I realize it is true: he loved her. Now I… after a fashion, feel that love for her too. This woman I have never truly met, yet can picture perfectly in my mind’s eye. The separate selves that were are merging together, and only now for the first time do I understand the pain that must have hidden behind my lover’s smile. To love this woman and yet… to still need me. A need that ran so deeply he thought to remove my life from his like a gangrenous limb.
Well, I think, once again looking down at the unseemly flesh that became my bisected lover’s grave, a life has been removed indeed. It would be rude not to claim it.
Resolved so, I get ready to leave. I give my old body one last look, not of longing, not of regret, but of respectful farewell. Despite the loathing I may have for it, it is the vessel that allowed me to find my passion, where I first heard the words that are my life, that are as close as I will every have to a perfect fit. Then I gather my clothes, every hint of my lover—my self that he left at the apartment before I became him. I skip down to the corner-store and buy a tank of kerosene, which I then douse everything in the bedroom with, leaving a trail out to the kitchen.
I light that with a match, and make my quick escape from the building.
Driving his… my car away from the sirens, the smoke, towards *my* new life. I contemplate the pasts. I have two of them now, one that belonged to the man I was, and one that belonged to the man I am becoming. I can remember more and more of him, as if the world senses that this is who I must be.
I look to the future, to the fiancée I return home to, to the child I can now remember grows inside her, my child. Closing my eyes, I can picture holding her in my arms. Somehow I know it will be a daughter. I can see her grow, and the joy we take in her growing. I see myself filling her in moments of passion, the way I was once filled by the body I inhabit. I see myself still sneaking off to be filled by other men in the venal, necessary way that part of me that is me still craves. I see us happy, despite the lies that haunt every marriage. I see her catching me in quiet moments, when I look up at the stars with the look of a man she doesn’t recognize, or I say things entirely out of character for the man she thinks she knows. I see her asking me what’s wrong, time and time again, unsatisfied by my bizarre non-answer. Yet is the only one I have.
We are old in one of these visions. Our one daughter long gone with kids of her own. I sit by the lake behind the home we bought to grow old—and die in—together. Sitting on the pier, I do not hear her approach, but she can see the look on my face, another one of those looks that is not her husband’s.
She sits beside me, resignedly, and sighs, saying only: “You know, when we were young, I was so sure you would tell me what was wrong. It must have happened that day.”
I turn to her in shock: “What day?”
“There was a day, before we married. We had a fight and you left for a night. You said you went to a friend’s, but…”
“You came back, and I was glad you came back. But after that day you were different somehow. Not worse, better in fact, just different. It was after then you took up writing for yourself. Who knew you could be so good at it?”
She pauses for a moment, resting her head on my shoulder. I start to run my hands through her hair, even in brilliant white it is still beautiful.
“Still, I thought, though it doesn’t really matter, does it? I thought you would tell me.”
I take her chin in my hand, and turn her towards me. I tilt her head upwards and our lips meet in a kiss, one of tens of thousands to happen between now and then. Alas, all I have for her are the same words. I have no more to spare.
“My dear, you already know what I’m going to say.”
“Say it anyway, it’s a comfort now. This mystery is the you I love most.”
Then I sigh, I always sigh, though now, with her understanding, it hides a smile.
“In the best stories, the main character always has a secret. One that only he, or she—”
And here, I sneak a secret look up at the sky. Up at you.
“—and the reader know.”