I Write to You from [X] to [Y] :: Mingpei Li

i. What did it feel like, to enter a room after ten years away, and turn on the lights. To recognize that same familiar glow, inhabit again your younger self. Strewn this way and that, against one or another body. Night twisting into dawn, morning prying its mouth open to spit out darkness. Everything was a struggle, then, wasn’t it? That incandescence was like a serum: when it hit your pupils, you could feel the quickening in your insides as if your gravid heart is ready to bear itself a new one.

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ii. A question forces the answerer to stare straight into the multiverse, forsake all but one of them to be the one she will live in for all time: an infinite and impossible task. When you asked me what I regretted about college, I saw primarily two universes. Let us call them the left universe and the right universe. In the left universe (or The Standard Universe), I would have given you my rehearsed response: “Nothing. I’m sure I had good reasons at the time.” Let us not second-guess my past self. Pity her, to have to choose a universe once, then be forced over and over by me to carry on in it. It is an answer kind to her, and, not coincidentally, that risks nothing of myself to give.

Maybe you’ll remember that I hesitated when you asked the question. In the right universe (or The One I Shall Be Trapped In), I didn’t give you that response. I could make up reasons but I do not know why I a. admitted my regrets about college to you and b. did so by reading an unfinished letter I wrote: like folding a sheet of vulnerability so that it doubled on itself. I hadn’t folded a universe, you understand, but I wouldn’t have minded if you had told me what would have happened if I had.

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iii. We arranged ourselves the only way we knew how. I told you that yoga has made sex better: it was probably the breathing. You looked surprised, happy. “I feel like sex has such potential to be amazing,” you paused, “with an understanding partner you could try things with.” I nodded. You had wanted to make me feel good. I was thinking what it would have felt like to no longer embargo ourselves. To try, discard, repeat the way only those holding (without knowing what) endless time (still remained) would have. A night not waiting for the alarm of day to go off. What I could not say when I nodded was, “And shall we find out?”

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iv. I got up to go to the bathroom. When I came back, our clothes that we tossed like jammed grenades all over the floor were folded neatly on the desk, one next to another. Mine. Yours. Mine. I alternated your eyelids to kiss, the sides of your pelvis to press.

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v. We were very similar, you felt. What tipped you off was that I made the same excuses as you for being lonely. That I couldn’t remember my personality type was a technicality. You already knew we would get on. Just like you knew astrology is a crude explanation of seasonal effects on neural development. For the southern hemisphere, maybe the signs should be reversed. And for the equatorial regions? Maybe everyone there is a Leo, born into the heat, but one can hardly know the weather these days, or being in utero.

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vi. I read the unfinished letter oxygen-poor, my arrhythmia surfacing, and asked, “Why?” when you said, “Can you read it again?” I thought that, like sixth grade reading class, I had to stand up and read it again because I stumbled over my tongue, couldn’t crawl my way to the end of a sentence. But you said, “Because I want to hear it again.” So I did, and tried not to see that you were there at all, that I was naked and you too and now I more so. To focus only on what I had written, the courage given by reciting childhood murmurs, fortified words that meant nothing but the way they felt clearing my teeth, something I must have decided a while ago to outgrow.

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vii. Sext: I am a lost Welsh sheep that became a cloud, you are tea evaporate that became rain. I hold you inside me.

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viii. We did not tear up anything to throw at each other in our hours together, no lover’s note or unpaid bill or eviction notice. It was that motion, though, that my mind drifted to as we tried to sleep. Weightless scattering all about: how you ended up in [Y] and I [X]. Some tectonic plate bullshit.

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ix. In the morning, I asked how you felt. Your words came slow and careful: “Good.” You said you knew I was going back to [X] that afternoon, and you were going back to [Y]‡. “And you?” I said, too quickly and bright: “Good.” But I did mean good. It isn’t the morning after that’s hard, you see. It’s a morning some months later, when I will try to start a conversation with your voice as it backs away from the solidity of matter, beyond the greedy fist I call my memory. Hearing the timbre of your laughter one day will shock me, and that pleasure.

‡ Some 8,000 miles separate [X] and [Y]. But all numbers relating to our physical world are defined by the unit of measurement we choose. Try not to let a therefore arbitrary number contain all the worlds we could know.