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" The Missing Piece | 2008 | Directionless "

08.23.08 11:23 p.m.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. 

-Kahlil Gibran



"Can I get you anything?" I ask Melanie, the woman over whom I have quietly pined these past three months, whose presence I have gotten not to need but wanted so much more. I don't know what to do with her now that I have kissed her two dozen times, given her the thirty second guided tour, and brought her luggage inside.

"Undressed?" She replies immediately and complies with her own request before I can nod.

She isn't wrong in her boldness. It is the most efficient way to bridge the uneasy gap between us, to rend the artifice covering us both. Unclothed, standing in my new apartment that feels as though it has been assembled for this moment, she is so much more beautiful than I remembered. She returned to me looking more like a woman and acting more like a child, both a reaction to her time in Paris and Ohio, affected in a dozen ways by her mother. Both aspects impel me to cuddle against her and cover her in a sea of blankets. One of my strongest instincts is to remind her and remind myself how much I love her and how much I don't want to spare her this long ever again.

I can't begin to put into words the torrent of thought, feelings, and emotions that coursed through me earlier as I knew she grew closer to New York. My leg shook driving home from Jacki's engagement party and I nearly glared to death the woman parked behind me who insisted she was leaving but then stopped to catch up with friends. Kevin and his friend backed my car over the lawn to prevent justified bloodshed. I nearly trod a rut in the back lawn of my new home, darting out every time I thought I heard the crunching of gravel that signaled Melanie's arrival. I was both useless and frenetic until her car pulled in and I could hold her.

I told Jacki that the anticipation was like ten first dates rolled into one, such was my anxiety. Melanie and I were in nearly daily contact, exchanging letters, phone calls, email, chats, and web cam sessions. I couldn't touch her, but I could see her. It was almost like we were together on those hard days.

I can't help but contrast this with Emily's two significant returns, the resentment I felt, how there would be this awful distance between us for a while. How she almost had to prove herself to me again because she had left, very willingly and at least once needlessly, just to say she had. With Emily, her coming back was never enough to sate the tingle of abandonment. I did not feel as close to her while she was gone as I felt to Melanie. Both times when Emily came home, she came home to tragedy, a war evacuation and a long hospital stay to cure her cryptosporidium. I didn't feel entitled to my emotions when she almost died twice, I couldn't have my sorrow that my partner decided to leave for distant shores.

Melanie didn't choose to leave or, rather, her leaving was preordained from the moment I met her and it was a precondition if I was going to let myself fall in love with her. Had she her choice, she would have returned far sooner. She has promised me that the time apart will never again be this long, but also that there will be other partings. I am again enraptured with a cosmopolite, though a different strain, one who keeps a part of me as her luggage.

We spend the night in constant physical contact, giving breath to our long-distance love. Half of me feels that she never left, the rest wonders if I am making love to a stranger. It has been so long since I allowed myself any physical affection from anyone, having run when Meredith intimated it, I nearly lost the flavor of it. I don't need it to know her again, just kisses and her hands in mine, but I quickly gain an appetite again like a man so long denied food that he's forgotten salt and sweet.

Soon in Xenology: Jobs. The Renaissance.

last watched: The Professional
reading: Spook
listening: Highly Evolved

" The Missing Piece | 2008 | Directionless "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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