Jen Rombach and Amanda Miska

By Jen Rombach

Paper Collage

Response piece


What Lingers
By Amanda Miska
Inspiration piece

When I met you, I was unhappily married and you were dating some tiny, beautiful girl with dark hair who played the cello and wrote stories too—stories I envisioned were much better than mine because she’d had the advantage of beauty, of travel, of small stature.  (This is how my mind goes.)

I could snap her in half like a twig, I thought.  She was so damned delicate.  I hated small women because they made me feel like a blubbery giant and also because men loved them.  Petite women made them feel taller, stronger, more virile.  They could wear heels and not tower over their lovers.  They could be picked up over a shoulder or easily rolled over on a bed.

I knew you could never love me since I was nothing like that.  Besides being taller and rounder and louder, I needed too much. And you were aloof and casual in a way that’s cool to acquaintances but frustrating to those closest to you.  I knew I couldn’t love you, but I did it anyway because attempting the impossible is the only way to keep on living.  Somewhere in between, she left you and I left him, and there was a moment that slipped from our grasp.  Mere seconds. One afternoon could have changed it all, but we weren’t ready. We were too busy.

Oh, how the world moves. We are never in the same place twice, but here you are standing before me as in some parallel universe.  You seem taller, or maybe I am slouching. Maybe my bones have softened over the years.  You look like a man now with only a hint of boyishness to your face rather than the reverse, the way it was the first time I saw you. I pull you close to my breast like a mother, if only to feel your heart beat against mine, your warm skin beneath my hands.  It doesn’t mean anything this way.  It’s just the embrace of old friends.  But we linger a little too long, and then you turn to leave. I reach out to touch your arm and you turn and I tell you:

You never wanted me when I wanted you.  We did this dance, and now there’s a ring on my hand  and you can’t stand it.  But I promise you, if we stood shoulder to shoulder at the kitchen sink (I’d wash/you’d dry), I know you’d get this wistful look for just a second as the sun set, thinking of someone else you can’t have, someone who maybe doesn’t even exist.

I tell you this and you say, “No.  You don’t understand. It’s not like that.”

What’s it like then?

“I need you.”

But I want to be wanted.

Neediness is for children hanging on your legs, but desire is arms pinned down.

I am made of dense things.  When I break, the cracks heal over, stronger than before.  I can say no now.  I can ignore the pull of the Universe, burrow my feet into the dirt so I can stay in one place while you spiral away and out of reach.  You will find love, but I know it will be small.

The next time our paths cross, the lines on my face will surely obscure me to you, and we will pass like strangers and as I walk away without turning, I will think We were so close to it all.



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  1. Posted June 8, 2012 at 10:29 am | #

    Jen, this is so lovely! I really enjoy seeing how the writing inspires the work.

  2. Posted June 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm | #

    Amanda, I thought your piece was very universal; the narrator’s sentiments were touchingly vulnerable tempered with unsuspected great strength. This imagery was what came to me first, but I went through a day or so reconsidering making it so fantastical. I may have been harder on the gentleman in question than you: making him literally two-faced and dressing him in coward’s yellow. I hope I did justice to the narrator’s obvious beauty!
    (This project has been fun, but unfortunately wedged in between 3 very hectic weeks. I look forward to getting to slow down, soon, and really take in the other contributor’s pieces!)

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