Better Half

A week ago, we said goodbye at the bus stop, and he made his way—by bus and train and plane—to Scotland for a week. The days that followed were a string of flashbacks to the year, not so long ago, when we were long distance. He was here in Atlanta then, I was in Boston, and our lives intersected each evening around nine by way of our glowing screens. I always found it so funny that we could be together, in a way, while living separate lives, each built for one. He rose early and biked to the library; I slept in late and let the morning slap me in the face on my walk (read: run) to class. We ate our meals at different times, and we ate different things. In some ways, it seems easier to coordinate basic aspects of life when you’ve only got one body to consider. But I longed so much to build and be a part of a life shaped for two.

The end of each visit was the beginning of a countdown toward the next. In between, my physical space would gradually descend into utter disarray. I wanted things to be better, but since my space and the life I was living in it felt temporary, I didn’t put much effort toward change. When we were together, though, for those brief whirlwinds, I caught glimpses of my best self. She was someone who strode toward life on purpose, rather than bracing herself as if life were coming at her like a train.

After my return from the bus stop last week, I couldn’t stop noticing the shape of our life. Two sets of keys in a cup. A rack with space for his shoes and mine. Two placemats on the table. A note on the coffee pot in handwriting other than my own. I rolled around in our cozy apartment like a lost marble. I couldn’t quite get comfortable because all the best spots fit two.

I also slid easily into my old habits, staying up late and eating toast for two out of three meals a day. By Thursday, I was tired and more than ready for my better half to return.

When they say “better half,” they usually mean the other person, and I mean that too. I mean the partner I love and admire, who surprises and delights me every day. I also mean my own better half, who lives life on purpose in the context of a life lived together.