What I miss most about The Other One is the way she smelled: like measured optimism and second-day hair.
Oh, The Other One.
My longing for her is thick. So thick that there’s no getting through it. It’s a formidable muck that gets lodged between my toes and inside my thoughts and around every task at hand. It’s a quicksand into which I’ve all but disappeared.
The odd thing is, I couldn’t even tell you who The Other One is. All I know is that there are shimmering fragments of her in every memory I have up until three years ago. Unfortunately for me, those liquid pieces have never coalesced into a recognizable whole.
“I’ll never be happy,” I sob. “Not until she’s with me.”
“Who?” they pry. “Who?”
My shoulders rise and fall pathetically. The salt of my despair snakes down my cheeks, over my lips, and off my chin. “I don’t know.”
The walls of this place—some of them painted, some of them padded—are no match for the crashing wetness of my heartache. It escapes through every crack and opening; it floods the neighborhood, the country, the world, its frothy current like breadcrumbs between me and the one for which I ache.
I want The Other One.
The Other One, The Other One. She knew me with a nuanced completeness that no one else ever will. Sometimes, in the microsecond after I’ve woken from a cloying slumber, I feel her next to me, the narrow canyon she’s created in the mattress causing me to roll toward her a bit. I even see the sunlight glinting off her barely-visible lashes and her fine, flaxen tresses. But then my vision sharpens, and I realize that it was all just the illusory vestiges of my happiest dreams. What really lies next to me is the cruel bulk of my own incessant yearning.
One day, I hear a ruckus out in the corridor.
“Hey, what’s going on?” a nurse demands. “Why was she outside? And where’d she get street clothes?”
“That’s not who you think it is,” an orderly whispers, referring to me. “That patient is soundly in bed. This woman just rang the bell and got let in.”
Now I hear the rustling of an urgent approach.
And suddenly, she’s in my doorway: slight and yet the most monumental thing in existence. I scramble out of bed and go to her. She takes my hands in hers—hands that, like mine, look much older than the rest of her. Her eyes, large and sad, her hair, an afterthought, and her tears, steams of elation, just like mine.
“You’re here,” we both rasp, locked in each other’s soft, soft arms. “You’re here.”
When the doctor arrives, the nurse says, “Doctor, look! It’s The Other One! Can you believe it?”
The Other One becomes my roommate, a voluntary check-in who they later discover had walked right out of a long-term wellness center six miles away.
She and I do our crafts during art and share our stories during group and clean our plates during meals.
Three months later, we walk out of this place, hand-in-hand, identical grins on our identical faces.
My name is Sophie, and I’m a writer of long tweets and short fiction. My work has been featured by Mojave Heart Review, Spelk Fiction, New Pop Lit, Elephants Never, Me First Magazine, The Temz Review, Lunate Literary Journal, and other publications. I was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize and I’m currently working on my third novel.
Image via Unsplash.