Because we were friends and sometimes loved each other,
perhaps to add one more tie
to the many that already bound us,
we decided to play games of the mind.
We set up a board between us:
equally divided into pieces, values,
and possible moves.
We learned the rules, we swore to respect them,
and the match began.
We’ve been sitting here for centuries, meditating
how to deal the one last blow that will finally
annihilate the other one forever.
- Rosario Castellanos
There were times when, out of boredom and in the middle of a series of rants her husband started during dinner, her mind left the place. She imagined herself thousands of miles away, in the exotic land of a faraway country where she was free of ties and deeds and responsibilities but then a gently placed touch on the back of her hand brought her back “I´m here” it said, “I know” she longed to reply. Of course she was acutely aware of his existence, matter of fact, for good and for bad, they had been intertwined ever since the moment they first shared a conversation all those years ago. Life had been started, for both of them, on the day they realized the void they carried – the void all humans carried, she supposed – could be filled by the others constant presence.
It was complicated though, because she knew since her childhood days that she needed a piece of herself to remain untouched, “a piece of me for myself” she remembered telling her mother, and that ambition seemed to be a sin in a world where women were expected to give themselves away freely and completely, to exist as an extension of those they loved. He knew it too, from the very beginning and had sworn to honor her right to that particular need, she had hoped for it to work smoothly but knew the chances were slim. She both loved him for trying and hated him for –just– trying. He was damaged, she knew it too from the beginning, he was selfish and needy, always fishing for reassurance, always hanging onto her every word. He both loved her for her determination in keeping a part of her just for herself and hated her for it, he knew he could not possibly love – really love – a person whose whole existence was dedicated in one way or another to a shared life with him and yet deep within himself he sometimes longed for it to be that way.
There was admiration on his part, he had never meet someone quite as sharp as her or quite as kind and good natured and yet he could not help to envy and resent the same things he loved about her “why can´t you be mine?” his subconscious seemed to say “why can´t you be mine when life started when you first appeared on it?”. Why did she need more? Why could he not give it up for her? Why was it so hard to keep their bond yet existence seemed meaningless without the other´s place in it? We kill what we love, the rest was never alive, that certainly seemed true enough in their situation. So they existed as a paradox, only possible through the other´s existence and yet continuously chasing annihilation; him chasing an impossible ideal and her fighting with all her might to stay truth to herself.
And so dinner kept going and her mind went flying once again, not in the mood for arguing not tin the mood to care, not today. There was so much expectation resting on her shoulders, a whole world seemed to be starting and a mixture of excitement and fear washed upon her ever since she first stepped foot on her Whitehaven home. “This is mine” she though, “for me” and it was, despite his quiet demand she made it his too the day he stepped foot on it a week ago. “I can’t” she said with her aloofness “I know” he wanted to say, and still he wasn’t resigned to it.
“I think is time for you to return to New York” Her sudden declaration make his spoon stop midair. “I think you help me best being there, I know I promised to try and I am trying but I can´t make things go back to what they were before. I´m not ending things either, but I need space, I need this for me and you being here makes me want to run away hoping I can save myself. I can´t be the person you need me to be right now, I´ll lose myself trying and I just can´t afford that right now.”
And so she broke the bubble, typical of her who always faced trouble head on. “What do you want then?” he said without lifting his gaze “I go back to New York and then what? Will we talk or you want to cut communication too? Do I still have a wife? A marriage? I need direction here.”
“You never cared much about the logistics and implications of “marriage” did you? Couse if you did you certainly could have fooled me” she stood up “Listen, I’m not interested in picking a fight and I can do without your misplaced outrage right now. You are not a kid Bill, I don´t have to give you directions or tell you how to behave. Not that that ever mattered much when I foolishly offered those services in the past…” silence loomed over the room for a short and uncomfortable period that seemed to stretch forever. “I just need time” she said regaining her calmness “even lovers need time” she whispered.
“But what about friends? Do friends need time too?” He knew that yes, lovers do need time indeed but he could not exist just being her lover, he loved her as his best friend too, he loved her as a person, as the one entity that assured him he existed by existing herself. “I´ll go and I´ll wait. I´ll wait not just because I owe it to you but because I wouldn´t know what else to do, I just need to know what to expect in the end, to keep my sanity.”
“We´ll never be anything other than what we have always been since we first meet each other, that´s why I need you to move over and let me have this for a while. I can´t built on my future if I have to think about what to do about you. We have to accept we died as we knew each other and ourselves some years ago, there´s no use in pretending we did not. I don´t think I can let go of you and I know you don’t know how to let go of me. We are friends and we are lovers, that is all we have ever been and will continue to be till death falls upon us but I have the certainty now that I am more than a void that needs to be filled by love and friendship and I need you to love me, want me and respect me for that. You are not ready yet, but time away, and reflection will hopefully teach you how to be.”
“I´m afraid” he said
“So am I” she said “But I´m not cowering nor steeping back” after a while when he didn´t respond she turned around and left the room. The next morning found her alone in her Whitehaven bed, it would remain that way for years to come – their Chappaqua home and her senate office being the places reserved for the lovers’ part of their union – until one day, she felt there was finally enough space for both of them to exist without her having to shrink to fit.