The first love of my life never saw me naked. There was always a parent coming home in a half hour, always a little brother in the next room, always too much body and not enough time for me to show him. Instead I gave him my shoulder, my elbow, a bend of my knee. I lent him my corners, my edges, the parts of me I could afford to offer, the parts I had long since given up trying to hide.
He never asked for more. He gave me back his eyelashes, the back of his neck, his palms, we held each piece we were given like it was a nectarine, could bruise if we weren’t careful. We collected them like we were trying to build an orchard. And the spaces he never saw, the ones my parents had labelled “private parts” even I was still small enough to fit all of myself and worries inside a bathtub, I made up for them by handing over all the private parts of me.
There was no secret I didn’t tell him, there was no moment I didn’t share. We didn’t grow up, we grew in, like ivy wrapping, molding each other into perfect yings and yangs. We kissed with mouths open, breathing his exhale into my inhale. We could’ve survived underwater or outer space, living only off the breath we traded. We spelled love G-I-V-E. I never wanted to hide my body from him, if I could have I would have given it all away with the rest of me. I did not know it was possible to save some things for myself.
Some nights I wake up knowing he’s anxious. He’s across the world in another woman’s arms and the years have spread us like dandelion seeds, sanding down the edges of our jigsaw parts that used to only fit each other. He drinks from the pitcher on the nightstand, checks the digital clock: it is 5 am. He tosses in sheets and tries to settle, I wait for him to sleep before tucking myself into elbows and knees, reaching for things I have long since given away.