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I heard this myth told once at a wedding. The bride and groom were two halves of one whole, they said, we are one person, behold! What they did not know was that the myth, revealed by a playwright at a drinking party in a story told by an old man to a young man in an ancient text written by a philosopher and transcribed by the hands of many now long dead, was meant as a joke. The joke is that this is a story of love told by foolish lovers, which is, understandably, the nature of lovers. To believe the joke is to think that we should want to return to wholeness, that we could ever be enough for one another. It is a fantasy that forgets decay, death, the hot restlessness of desire. Imagine yourself as a circle, navel-less and two-headed, godlike in your perfect roundness. Still, would you not want more, need more – more than this unbearable plenitude?
The true story of love goes something like this. At eighteen, my grandmother, who was very beautiful, agreed to marry a boy whose face she liked. She had said no to other boys but knew she had to say yes to one eventually, so she chose this one, because she liked his face. It was a kind face. She bore and raised three children, kept the house, soothed her husband’s ego when it was bruised. Most days he would gaze at her face and say that it looked to him just as it did when she was eighteen. One night not too long ago he woke her up to say he was cold. She pulled a wool blanket around him and gathered him to her and then he died. When he was alive my grandfather read many books. Now it is my grandmother who spends her days reading, though the books make her arthritic hands swell and cramp. I last saw her a few months ago, on a screen. She was holding a book, wrapped carefully in brown paper, a book I had written. She was trying to read it, she said, but she wasn’t sure she could understand all of it. Do you know how much I love you, she said to me, do you know.