Day Twenty-Three

Quarantine reminds me of December mornings in Northern Germany, an unwelcomed melancholy that turns familiar as the days pass by. Growing up, I felt loneliest with my family. All I wanted was to feel whole with the people who made me. But I was left not knowing how or why I was made to be different, feeling disconnected from the very essence that created me.

I carried this guilt into adolescence and then young adulthood, looking for someone or something to make me feel whole.

From the first days of being together, Ron had this power over the fractured parts I carry with me, over my shame. He knew how to reach into the depths of my solitude and hold the softest parts of myself with the utmost care. It only made me want to run away more.

On day twenty-three of the pandemic, Ron and I decide to trip together. After spending five hundred and fifty-two consecutive hours together, I decide that I want to marry him. If this is what everyday is like, the rest of our lives might not be that bad. It could be quite joyful.

Five minutes after midnight I place the sugar cube on my tongue and close my eyes, there’s no turning back. When it hits, I scratch at my skin, feeling the guilt and the shame and the loneliness gnawing at my fractured existence in this body. I take off all my clothes and stare at the mammal looking back at me in the bathroom mirror.

Ron tells me to drink water and take deep breaths. “Talk to me, what’s going on in your head?”

I don’t know how to tell him that I don’t feel like this life belongs to me, that I’ve never felt at home in this body. And worst of all, I don’t feel ready to be happy yet because there’s so much of me that is still broken.

We get in the shower together and I wrap myself around him. I watch the water move in spirals. Our dead skin cells dance across the tiles, moving in tandem with the water. I ask him to hold me tighter and he does gently and perfectly.

“Where do we go from here?” I say.
“Wherever we want to go,” he says.

I wrap myself in a navy towel and sit on our bedroom floor. I pick the lint collecting on my forearm and say, “Let’s do it, let’s have a baby.” When I hear the words come out, I believe them, and he believes them too. His soft smile comforts me, to know someone believes I have enough love for myself, for him, and what our love has yet to create.

At two am we’re sitting on the couch, bound together in a crochet blanket. I feel at peace because I’m too tired to be anxious and overthink. I want to believe that if my Oma was still here, she’d tell me this is the right thing to do. But she isn’t really. All I have are the photos of me as toddler, dressed in a snowsuit by her front door after making angels in the snow. My parents are smiling, looking over me. There is joy, but also a lingering sadness for a life they couldn’t live in order for me to exist.

I think about all the people I love: Ron, Oma, Mama and Papa, Joana. I imagine our daughter in all the places we’ve been and have yet to occupy. In every image, I am smiling because in the moments before we leave this life, there won’t be time to think about the paths we didn’t take. Our shortcomings won’t be at the forefront of our minds, our loved ones will be.

Carolina Meurkens is an emerging writer and art educator based in Washington, D.C. She writes about intersectional identity, love, and solitude. She is currently developing an interview series for Smithsonian Folklife Magazine focusing on cultural heritage and artistic production in the Afro-Latinx community in D.C.

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