how strange to be strangers

Ten years have passed and unexpectedly
they share the same set of walls,
representing opposite poles of the same planet,
standing as far apart as space will allow.
Where their gazes used to attract they now repel,
bouncing off, pushing away from each other,
so no one else will notice that
they recognize themselves in the other.

He knows all the shades of her skin in summer,
the taste of her mouth at the beach.
She knows how it feels to curl up in his lap,
the sound of his laugh when she teases him.
He’s familiar with the exasperated roll of her eyes
and knows her favorite kind of pizza.
She remembers every peak and valley of his body,
and knows lines from all his favorite films.

They remember building a fence and digging a garden,
and leaving books on each other’s shelves.
They remember lazy nights spent entangled on the couch,
and choosing colors, fabrics, music.
They remember choosing a Christmas tree,
and hauling boxes into a new house.
They remember walking hand-in-hand to see fireworks,
eating ice cream on a porch in the summer heat.

But ten years have passed and suddenly
they are held by the same cage,
oil and water poured into a clear bowl,
pulling apart as quickly as reactions allow.
Where their spaces used to flow together they now stand rigid,
the tight discomfort of shoes that no longer fit,
hoping no one will notice that
they’re pretending their apathy.

(how strange it is
to be strangers,
for the first time
in their lives together)



We are driving in the rain. Holding hands, happy, entrenched in a spirited debate about futuristic technology. We discuss self-driving cars and the progress being made; I say they’ve made great strides, he says it’s too slow.

“We’ll have teleporters by then,” he teases.

And all at once I am in a different truck — similar, but not identical, and yet it’s a truck I know. It feels familiar. I know the scratch on the dashboard; I know its unique smell of sawdust and metal and him; and I know the chain hanging from the rearview mirror. All the same, I’m aware that haven’t been inside this truck in years. In fact, when I turn to the memory of the man beside me, it occurs to me that he might not even own it anymore.

But it’s the one I remember him in.

“Life would be so much easier if you didn’t live so far away,” I remember him saying.

“I know,” I answered. “I wish I could just snap my fingers and be where I wanted to be.”

“I’ll build you a teleporter,” he offered. His crooked smile made my heart flutter.

“Oh yeah?” I tossed back. “Knowing you, I’ll be waiting five years before you get around to it.”

He winked at me. “Then it can be your wedding present.”

I remember not replying, because I wasn’t positive that he meant what I thought he meant and I didn’t want to assume. So I waited.

“When we get married,” he clarified, and though his tone was still casual I felt my heart skip, “I’ll build you a teleporter.”

“Right,” I remember answering slowly, acting like the idea that we’d get married wasn’t news to me. “But by then I won’t need one anymore.”

“Okay, so the teleporter will be an engagement gift.”

“Then what do I get as my wedding gift?” I demanded.

He smiled at me again, and I felt in that moment how overwhelmingly I loved him. “For our wedding I’ll build you a rocketship,” he promised. “We can take off in it after the ceremony is over.”

“Fair enough,” I agreed, and we both laughed.

“I’d rather have a rocketship,” I say without thinking.

He looks over at me, puzzled. “What?”

I shake my head, the ghost of a smile on my face. “Never mind.”