She crossed her arms over her chest and told me that the worst death was the one you got from building up so many walls that you blocked the air off to your lungs, and I looked at her through the bottom of a glass and told her that there wasn’t a person in the world who had more walls than her and I, and together we could probably build an impenetrable city. She looked at me with those sad, brown eyes and laughed and laughed in a way that I couldn’t differentiate between tears or peals, but both of us knew that I was only telling the truth. And I wondered then what kind of walls she had built around that small, feeble heart of hers. I wondered if they were brick or mortar, or if she’d built log cabins around her aorta and white picket fences around her atriums. Her walls were tangible, handcrafted and put in place by a man’s cigarette burns and lashes against the small of her back. She built unsteady walls, knowing that they could so easily crash down if I rolled a grenade into her palm, but that’s what she liked: walls that someone could break into. Just a knock on a door and a jackhammer to the foyer and she’d be putty in their hands. Human devastation was her curse and her love, and I knew that like me, she was fatally attracted to the promises of demolition.
And then I looked at myself, into myself, and saw that the walls of my lungs were carved from ice and fire, wind and earth. I found ivy crawling through my trachea and curling into the thin of my wrist. I had lit my heart with kerosene. I’d built elemental fortresses around m chest, knowing that nothing but their contrasting forces could break me down. Only the moon could control the tide of my seas. Only my earth could overwhelm my flames, and you’d need to shift tectonic plates to get to the core of my being. I told her that I had a mantle and a lithosphere to worry about, that my skin was merely the earth’s crust, and that maybe if there was such a thing as the end of the world, then everything would fall away and render me wall-less, vulnerable, open. She shook her head at me, taking a drag of a cigarette, and told me that I was setting myself up for disaster. But I looked at her and smiled, saying that I knew that one day I’d meet someone that I’d let dig a hole straight through me, throwing blankets on my flames and blowing softly on the frost that I collected in the corners of my ventricles. One day I wouldn’t kiss away the trust that fell into my open palms, but that for today, for now, for the story that I was writing every second of every minute of every day, I needed to keep feeding the fire. I needed to be strong for myself, for the people around me. I needed walls for the world to lean on. I wanted walls, I told her. I wanted cavernous seas and contagious flames. I wanted all of that because it’d mean more to me if I found someone who would drink up the eighth sea inside me rather than have me hug them around their ankles like sea foam. I wanted to be swam in. I didn’t want to chase after someone who could so easily walk away.
She shook her head at me again.
Listen, I told her. I want a love affair between elements. Isn’t the most beautiful love story the one between the moon and the sun? Between time and space? The shore and the waves? Light and ground? That’s what I want. A love story that only the universe will settle for.
And she took a drag of her cigarette and only told me that a love that grandiose would end with craters in my chest, and I laughed.