Cover Photo: Childlike by Chloe Bell

Childlike

Reimagining a grown-up love

I like to pretend that we met when we were eight years old. I can see the curly black flops around your ears, the gaps between my teeth, the way our child bodies had not yet fallen victim to awkward adolescence. I'd have already decided that I wanted to marry a man, but he'd have big green eyes and pale skin. And so I wouldn't recognize you. My dishwater hair and beat up knees wouldn't quite resemble the girls in JC Penney magazines that you kept in your drawers and dreams.

And so, we'd be free to know each other before sex. I'd read you stories I'd written on the inside of Crayola sketchbooks, the one about the heir to the Lipton iced tea fortune, of course, and then the one about the numbers--yes literal numbers--who kidnapped a little girl. When your dad made you feel small, we'd convene in my treehouse and draw pictures of  easily identified evil. I'd brush back your hair, but only so it wasn't in your eyes when we sword fought with sticks. You'd hold my hands, but only to ensure I got across the rippling stream safely. 

When my mom first met you, she'd serve you Krafft mac and cheese rather than suspicion. If we had another friend, we wouldn't wonder if the other  preferred to play with them. After all, we'd be best friends, and what is more sacred to an eight year old? When your grandmother died, I'd be there with a box of honey buns. When my brother was born, you'd be there to give me attention. I'd share my animals, since you didn't have your own, and you'd share your adventurous eating habits, since I didn't have my own.

As time went on, it would come to light that we made less and less sense to each other. I'd have to wear a training bra and you'd say that was gross. You'd get unsolicited erections while we went swimming and I'd think you were a monster. Chances are, we'd drift apart, wandering down different avenues of adolescence. I'd have boyfriends who sanded down my spirit and you'd have testosterone that amplified a long existent rage. We'd pass each other in the hallways and nod our heads absent-mindedly. I'd wonder if you thought I was pretty now and you'd wonder why I'd become such a bitch. 

But I would still know you. I would know how badly you needed more love than you got. I would know how it felt when they made fun of you, because I'd feel it too. I'd know that when you had a crush, you were hoping she morphed into "the one," the one to rival all others and save you from the monsters. And I'd know, as someone else's high school "one," that we didn't quite have that in our bones yet. I'd see you on the other side of rooms and wonder how my soul got over there, on the outside, walking and talking for someone I didn't know how to love. 

And so, if we met when we were eight years old, we'd grow up differently and also the same. The rift between us would begin before we could contemplate its existence and after we could prevent it. The rift would begin when your body said, "Her" and mine said, "Me?" I wouldn't have been able to stop them from bullying you and you wouldn't have been able to stop them from diminishing me. We'd only know each other more thoroughly and more painfully. 

Now, when we fight, I wish to see a tiny you, a child you, who I could hug and hold. I wish I could have known him before anyone hurt him, and yet I know, I'd have hurt him too.  Our child ghosts rise to touch each other, as our adult bodies turn away. She reaches for his temples as he tickles her sides. Maybe they've known each other anyway, and I'm just blind. 




I'm a recent grad of an expired women's college, living, working, and writing in Pittsburgh, PA. You can find more of my work here:  http://cloachrysanthemum.blogspot.com/ and follow me on instagram: @chloe_christina and twitter: @chl0e_christina