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When We Were One

by A. J. Rocca

Do you remember, my love? Do you remember what it was like when we were one? Do you remember how our flesh came together without a seam, how each joint joined and bone locked together in perfect congress: hip-to-hip, back-to-back, thighs, sides, loins, heart and heart? Was this where your head stopped and my neck began? Or is it where my shoulders stopped and your spine started? No, that’s not right, not right at all. It’s been so long now, but we have to remember. We have to remember what it was like when we were one.

Do you remember how the other children used to curse our beauty and call us chimera? It was a slur to compare our union to that motley of a beast, but what did we care what the half-born thought? We could wheel through the agora faster on our eight limbs than ever they could on their stumbling two; wrestle their unbalanced bodies to the dirt with our perfect, rounded form. We learned our skill with the needle from none less than our own argent father, and we could sew and mend and loom faster with our twenty clever fingers than even a workshop full of those born apart. You know in their most secret hearts they were only jealous of us, my darling. Why else would they spend so much of their lives crashing into each other, desperately coupling to find their lost half? First this one on top, then that one on top, over and over again, limbs all twisted up, parts bruising against each other. What shame could we feel before such ridiculous, shivering slices of a person? They’d point and laugh at us, and we’d point right back and laugh twice as hard.

            I hate the Storm Bringer. I hate the Storm Bringer and I don’t care if he hears it. I piss on his columns and shout in the ears of his goshawks until they are deaf with my blasphemy: capricious, unjust, cruel king and mad god! He knows no good turn, if he makes the vintner’s vines grow heavy, it’s only so his neighbors will come to kill him for their fruit. His rain falls on my tongue and I taste only vinegar. His priests say he split us to teach us humility but do not believe them, my love! He was jealous, jealous of the Moon, our noble father, who is older and more beautiful than him, jealous of our good mother who loved silver rays more than storm clouds. More than this, the Storm Bringer was jealous of us. Divine whore, father of orphans, we incited his envy because we had something he has never known once in his thousand conquests.

            Do you remember feeling him mark us before he struck, my love? The envious thunderhead darkly looming over the rolling sea as we weaved, the faint prickle of electricity run up my arm and down yours in the middle of a quiet, summer night. We should have guessed what it meant, but who could imagine such cruelty? Who could imagine what was coming that day as we came home from our workshop and the dark clouds started to gather out of clear, blue skies. We ran when the thunder started, whipping faster than the wind through the barley fields as the rain began to sheet, but not even our great speed could save us from him. The lightning bolt dropped, its arc sharp and smooth as a cleaver, and we were dismembered. What once was one made two, what once was whole made jagged, flesh ripped from flesh, side from side, our sex split apart in a bloody cascade. We were made just like the rest of them: we were apart, and we were miserable. All that was left was for one lost half to support the other as we limped the rest of the way home.

            How many ways have we tried to come back together, my love? I can no longer count. I know at first we tried coupling as they do, all those desperate nights thrashing in the sheets, the hangings drawn to hide us from the Moon as we tried to press our mangled bodies back together. We went top to bottom, front to back, side to side, but none of it was right and none of it lasted. Your hips would stick in my thigh or my ribs would poke in your breasts, restless lust turning us over and over again and again. We needed something stronger to stitch ourselves back together. At first we tried words, all our whispered promises—I love you, I love you, I’m yours, you’re mine—repeated like an incantation. Their magic seemed to bind us for a while, but in the end our words were not magic but only air, and we were only blowing ourselves ever further apart with their empty drafts. So we went searching for stronger words, holy words.

By how many priests of how many gods have we been married now, my love? How many the temple floor where we have laid a sheaf of grain or spilled a libation of wine? How many the rings on our fingers, how many the flowers in our hair? How many the cuts on our wrists where we’ve fed blood to a hungry altar, vowing by ocean or forest or stars never to be apart? We should have known, of course, that no number of marriages by the lesser gods would ever bind us. The Storm Bringer reigns supreme over all, and no rival priest can hope to mend what he has broken. So finally in our desperation we sailed for his great temple on the continent and begged the Storm Bringer’s high priest to intercede on our behalf. We choked down dignity and begged that creature for mercy, spat in the face of our own noble father and promised to ever be the Storm Bringer’s loyal acolytes if we might just have his blessing to come together again under his name. For months the high priest consulted his god, burning incense and offering entire head of cattle, taking our gold a handful at a time, and all for what? A dreary oracle at the end of it, as short and grim as life: “What God has torn asunder, let no one join the parts.”

Why did you get in the way, my love? You should have known I had to kill him. He stuffed our entire fortune into his temple coffers along with half the world’s wealth, and still that was not enough for that lecher priest. No, he had to have my own other half for his bed as well. Just like his wretched, jealous god, taking taking taking all that’s good from those with so much less than he. So of course he took you. I suppose he was faithful in his way, finishing the work his god had started. I should have expected it, but you… why did you try to stop me? You who have walked the hallways of my heart, you must have known I had to kill him. I don’t fault you for his seductions, but why did you get in my way when I came for him? Why did you put your precious self between him and the blow?

            No, I won’t blame you for it, my love. It’s the Storm Bringer’s fault. We are but his victims, and I forgive you just as I know you will forgive me when I’ve righted all his wrongs. Now at the end of all, I know what I must do. What words and vows and marriage will not mend, a needle and twine and a touch of father’s skill will make right again. I will knit us back together just as we were, just as we were meant to be, and my blood will enter your veins and put the bloom back to your cheeks, and all will be right in the world. All we need is to remember the way we once fit together. Was my side joined to here, or was it here? Is this the place where our hips once met? Had the joints joined here, is this where the bones locked? Do you remember, my love? Do you remember what it was like when we were one?



A.J. Rocca  is a writer and a graduate student in English at Western Illinois University. He writes short stories and critical essays, and occasionally he creates videos for his YouTube channel, BlueMorningStar. His work has been published at Every Day Fiction and Short Edition.