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 a shoulder, an elbow, the bend
of my knee. I lent him my corners, my edges:
the parts of me I could afford to offer, the parts of me
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 every piece we were given
like it was a nectarine—might bruise if we weren’t careful—
we collected them like we were trying to build an orchard.
And the spaces that he never saw: the ones my parents
had labeled private parts when I was still small enough
to fit all of my self and worries inside a bathtub,
I made up for them by handing over all the private parts of me.
There was no secret I did not tell him,
there was no moment we did not share.
We didn’t grow up, we grew in: like ivy wrapping,
molding each other into perfect yins and yangs.
We kissed with mouths open, breathing his exhale
into my inhale and back. We could have survived
underwater or in 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 am sure I would have given it all away
with the rest of me. I did not know it was possible
to keep some things for myself.
Some nights, I wake up knowing he is anxious.
He is 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 five 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.