when two become one

i once knew this man and woman.

real snazzy, power couple in our social circles. they had been dating for a few years; not long enough for a ring but certainly nothing to scoff at either. he did something-or-the-other for a living and she was a so-and-so, i can’t ever remember and i’m not sure it actually matters. all that remains when i think of them is the glow on her face when he put his arm around her waist at parties, the way his eyes crinkled when he heard her laugh. we all wanted to be them, the golden couple, the trophy pairing. all of us shitheads at the time, single and broke and miserable in our shoebox apartments, sat alone eating takeout at night and thought about how much better our lives would be if we could fall asleep with someone at night.

so some of us fucked strangers and some of us dated fleetingly. no one ever had the staying power that they did. when they moved in together there was a housewarming party, all soft lighting and catered food and a tv the size of my mattress. i brought a pineapple upside down cake that no one ate.

at the party she pulled me aside with a quizzical look etched between her eyebrows. she told me that the weirdest things were happening between them. just last week he found his money and stocks in her bank account. two days ago she went rifling through her closet for all her underwear, and found them in his bathroom cabinet. i offered rational explanations with consoling noises (although there is nothing rational about seeing your best lingerie stuffed in a box of q-tips). in the end she laughed it off and poured me another glass of wine.

but nothing ever seemed quite right with them after that. it was hard to see, like making out a landscape through fog clouds, but that couple started to fall apart at the edges. they still made their rounds through bachelor parties and baby showers, smiling and telling all the right jokes, but here and there the discrepancies in their perfect relationship made sly appearances as well. one time they showed up for a dinner party wearing each other’s’ clothes. once during a movie, his hand seemed to be fused to her shoulder for about forty minutes, and i watched the two of them prise and tug at his fingers anxiously long after the credits stopped rolling.

the rest of us couldn’t help but talk about it. we made jokes to ward off how uncomfortable it had become. where it had once been cute to refer to them as “two of a kind” and “made for each other,” it became awkward as they took on each one another’s features. she called me at 2 am once, sobbing and raving. she had woken up in the middle of the night with the strangest sensation in her jaw, as if it no longer fit properly. she examined herself with horror in the bathroom mirror, realizing that it was his teeth in her mouth. she and i had never been that close, so i didn’t know how to respond and began to make conversation about the weather.

soon after we found that we could no longer avert our eyes when he carried her purse and applied her lipstick, could not pretend to not notice once their legs became attached at the ankle and they fought over which shoes would cause less agony. he was cold and scathing when she complained that she could never use their shared arm for any of her own needs. she yelled at him and called him a dick in front of everyone at a restaurant when his food allergies caused their neck to swell up. we stopped inviting them to our get-togethers and they stopped calling too. what was worse than watching the slow, inevitable fusing of two bodies and two lives was realizing that they could not communicate any better for being one person.

last i heard, they had gotten married. i suppose they realized that they could not leave each other, and resigned to a legal commitment to match the physical one. my friend told me that his cousin told him that the bride cried through the wedding night all the while her husband complained that her tears were preventing him from watching tv properly.

i sent them some candles and an apology for not being able to make it to the wedding. i received a thank you card with a nearly illegible message. they had taken liberties to cross out each other’s’ words to replace with their own sentiments until the whole card was a mess of ink, and the only sentence they could agree on was “we hope that one day you will be as lucky in love as we are!”

i burned the card and stayed single.