Twice I turned my back on you. I fell flat on my face but didn’t lose. – Yukimi Nagano
This love is a leaden zephyr: it will always sink but at least it was made in the image of that which can fly.
Long ago, I gave you my heart in a kite. You wound the string around your neck: a floating pendant, an ascot that sailed against sky. And we walked together, two children in grown-up bodies: a girl in an eyelet dirndl, a boy in a sport coat and knickers. Playing school, playing doctor, playing house. You always wanted to be the teacher, always wanted to be the patient, always wanted to be head of the home. But at least I was never made to wear the dunce cap. At least I was not stricken with incurable disease. At least the home that we built was made of air.
Before long you began your proposals. The first was framed as algebra: if I asked you to marry me on your birthday, what is the probability you would wed me before gaining ground in your career?
n is the number of times you have asked for a compromise that solely benefits you. x is the absence of rings.
Solve for y.
You said my heart-kite became a noose. At least you didn’t die.
The bloom has long since fled this bouquet. It will shrivel like a cancerous thing. Its petals, if pulled, will portend our eventual fate: he loves me; he loves me; he loves me not. But at least you chose each flower yourself, at least you picked them from a garden you tend, at least you did not leave our outcome in the cold and scarred hands of a florist.
These inner children have grown. The girl has turned in her dirndl for a rough-hewn maternity smock. The boy is donning track shoes. They are every bit as mature as we’ve always looked and as wary as aging requires. When the sedatives wear thin in her blood and she raises her heels to push, his hands are not the ones that act as human stirrups, his eyes not the first to be laid on their child. He is not there at all; he has left for a gig. But at least he is called when the infant wriggles free. At least he whispers her name through a telephone held to her ear. At least he flies back one month later, bearing diapers, sleepy midnights, and money.
At least when he arrived, she did not say: this is the least you can do. The literal least.
This family is a disassembled mosaic: three shards of brightly colored glass, devoid of base and of hold. We float on the surface of waters, carried east and west on winds we cannot control. You have slit my sails and I have shredded yours; at least we are not without oars. At least we have not been submerged. At least we’re not lost to each other, in fog. At least you do not question the resemblance of the little shard to you. At least, should we ever find meet driftwood and fasten, we will make something beautiful, to be ogled, critiqued, and admired. At least on occasion, you roll a tiny scrit into a bottle. It says: my decision to remain on this water alone has little to do with whether we’ll wind up together. It says: this drifting will not always be, at least.
I know better than to read this as a promise. I have learned how to interpret you, at least.