Brown, Rebecca, Chicago Review
There are no others. There only was the one.
Well of course there were others, but they were different, they didn't compare, they were a whole different league, a whole different ball game.
The others came only later. After one could walk again and after the eyes no longer glazed, the hands no longer shook, the wrists no longer oozed but only dryly, whitely bore what one could claim were artfully, fashionably cut scarifications. One then experienced multitudes, made, in fact, a project of investigating closely, briefly, nocturnally, penetratingly, both digitally and dentally, first singularly, then in pairs, then severals (many of them are good about this: it has something to do with politics and property, about not owning or possessing) then packs, slews of them.
Those poor miserable gals probably didn't know what hit them, them cracking open this little can of worms and the can spewing out all over them, us, one, that horrible ooze both thicker than water and thicker than blood, that stuck to us, that sticks to one, that sticks the guts together, that cements the brain, that chokes one in the dreams. Those poor decent gals didn't know what hit them; they signed up for a diddle but got a baseball bat instead. They are, one must say, a sympathetic lot; they never, nary a one of them, had one arrested, eviscerated, hauled to the bin. They merely covered their faces with their arms and showed one the door with instructions to never return, never show the sick pathetic perverted brain-fucked little face in their bed, town, hemisphere, whatever, again.
You never told me to get over you. You never told me to forget. I didn't. I remember you.
There were the others, many, some, enough, alike, and many others different, good or kind, with better spirits. There were, indeed, rich, handsome ones, and gentle, wise, intelligent ones. There were compassionate ones and passionate. There were cute, delightful, darling ones. Among them even sexy ones.
Why didn't I attach myself to one or another or several of them?
Why did I only attach myself to you?
Why did I tape and glue and mucilage and superglue my skin, my bloody flesh? Why did I nail my hands and feet? Why did I swing by a rope from the thought of you? Why did I push-pin, thumbtack, staple - both hand-held and power-gunned - myself to you? Why did I tack and stick myself? Why did I drain my carcass, shellac my skin, cram myself into a pendant and hope you'd wear what I had been around your neck? Why did I like a sucker, like a lamprey a limpet a barnacle an octopus, suck my pathetic greedy sucker against you and not let go? Why did I attach my mouth, my tongue, my teeth, my fingers, my wrists, my arteries, my quivering throat, my quivering messy jugular, the chambers of my poor, misguided, dumb and bloodied, messy, messy heart to you?
Because you told me, limp and naked, barely capable of speech, the mouth having been previously, and very happily it seemed to me, occupied, you loved me.
You said you were my twin, my self, my other. You said that I was who you might have been. You said there were no others. Well, of course, there were others, there wasn't something wrong with you, you were certainly desirable to others, but not like this, not like me. The others, you said, were trifles, slight, mere entertainments or obliged. They were different, they didn't compare, they were a whole different league, a whole different ball game.
You said this more than once to me, you said it to me knowing. You said it when the mouth the tongue the teeth the tongue were otherwise unoccupied, when, it seemed to me, for I was young, there was no reason to say anything unless it was the truth.
Now I am no longer young. Now I can say with the experience of the intervening years, with the perspective I have gained, having learned and grown and at much length reconsidered, that if one could go back, if I was given half a chance, I wouldn't hesitate, I would do it all again.
I still believe it was worth it. I still believe it was worth every time I threw myself against a brick or glass or electrically charged wall, each time I needed then drilled knocked hacked gouged another fucking hole in my fucking head. I still believe it was worth every time I tried to yank you back and every time I flung myself to where I thought you were, every fete and do and soiree and affair and opening and invitation-only of yours that I crashed, flying in from the rafters, popping up from beneath the bed, leaking out of the heat vents, pushing up through the radiator pipes, splattering myself against the front end of your car like a deer in the headlights who waited for you, who sought you out when you drove home smashed again from another idiotic party you'd performed at. I still believe it has been worth each time I've busted into your nice, little, tidy excuse for a life, each time you were screwing some poor pathetic jerk and, just when you really shouldn't have, thought of me, and that poor pathetic sensitive jerk said, Hey, is something wrong? and you made up some trashy lie.
It has been worth each time you pretended you didn't know me when you ran into me in public, then how your stomach clutched and you excused yourself to go to the powder room and there either puked up your guts in the toilet and/or splashed water on your face and though you hated to look at yourself made yourself do so, stared at your lying face in the mirror and thought about blowing your brains out. It was even worth those couple of B-release afternoon movie times when I went to you, catching you when things weren't going so well at home, and you ushered me inside quickly so no one would see me, then welcomed me with your outstretched arms, dropped your pants onto the fabulously parqueted floor and, after we'd gotten the business over with, broke down, confessed, wept, said you were so so sorry and that, now, finally, yes, now you understood that your whole fucking life (I paraphrase) was a complete and utter fucking sham and if only I could understand.
I did understand. I do. I have for years. It isn't the understanding that's the problem. Needless to say, I said none of this to you.
You started making your stupid facile promises again, the ones you've never kept and never meant to, to meet me if only I'd give you a little time to tie things up, etc...
For God's sake how do you live with yourself? You've got to be sick.
I've known for years what's sick about you. In fact, I confess, I may even have had an inkling very early on. However it has only lately occurred to me what a major sicky yours truly too has to be to play along, to have played along with you for years. At least you've gotten on with your life, as paltry and as much of a crock as it may be. I've just stayed stuck in the past. Not entirely, of course. There were others, as I believe I mentioned earlier, in the words of a garrulous and largely appetited former acquaintance.
There were others and I apologize for how I was with them. I am ashamed of all the times I spewed the debris of my ludicrous past on those well-meaning, decent people who tried to love me. I regret and I am sorry for the thoughtless things I know I must have done but do not remember because my memory is, at best, selective. Is in fact - the better half thereof - a mess. I have these ridges, these ruts, these craters in my brain from where the glaciers move so slowly. I can't get out of them.
The past no longer happens and it cannot be undone.
I have been told to move along and get on with my life. Perhaps my life is to remember what is past.
The past is remembered differently. It can be different inside oneself and different also between two different ones.
Memory is its own kind of ill. It has its own way of staying or returning. It can return in a spasm, a gasp. It can remain.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything.
May God have mercy upon our soul.
Rebecca Brown is the author of seven books of fiction including The Terrible Girls, Annie Oakley's Girl, and most recently The Dogs: A Modern Bestiary, all with City Lights Books. She lives in Seattle where she writes, teaches, and takes polaroid photographs.…