“I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.” -Joan Didion
Mary cut her hair and now she looks exactly like I imagine her at eight. And nothing, she likes to remind me, like she was as an actual eight year old. But that’s how love tells stories. I make her a fierce child, a compact, tree-climbing version of the woman I know. I make us peers. I put us in classrooms together. Send us on field trips. Imagine if we’d had decades together.
I give us lifetimes. A history that sprawls out so that we both have a family. A witness.
“Would you have liked me?” I ask her. “When I was twelve? When I was fifteen? When I was in college?”
I ask and ask.
Women waste so much time being in lousy relationships. Squashing down the parts of ourselves that are most vigorous to be with someone we hope won’t be boring. It’s like we were all bred for co-dependence. For peacekeeping. Or, as Kim Gordon writes in her memoir, Girl in a Band: “At the end of the day, women are expected to hold up the world, not annihilate it.”
Why, you might ask, would anyone want to annihilate the world?
Why would anyone want to hold it up?
I don’t read ahead in books. I don’t want to know how it ends. Sometimes I never finish the last chapters. I want to know how things begin. I want to know if the me I was before is a me she would also love. An essential kind of me. Less destructive than so much of the fallout of the last thirty years might suggest.
Is what she loves about me a person who came late into being? A braver person than the girl of nineteen? The ill woman of twenty-six?
We are always unfinished. In progress. Learning and deconstructing.
“Do you remember the first time Mary made us dinner?” I ask the kid this weekend.
“No,” he says.
“She made risotto. A guy walked through our neighborhood with a parrot on his shoulder. We watched Spirited Away and you fell asleep in her lap. I ate that risotto and thought, This is why I’m going to marry her. This risotto.”
“And because she’s badass,” he says.
Yes. There was always that. From the start. From before the start. From childhood. We were so certain. Even then. I remember.