Thought Catalog
January 30, 2012

I'll Cover Yours If You'll Cover Mine

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What is the issue?

Sometimes I picture my body like a slice of Swiss cheese. Covered in holes, each of differing sizes and shapes, I walk around in a kind of stupor — looking for people in just the right dimensions to fill in those cavernous spaces. Like a little kid, sliding wooden blocks of varying forms through their little holes, always trying to jam the triangle through the square opening, most of the time it doesn’t quite fit. But when you find someone who matches — someone for the friend shape that loves to make fun of movies after you watch them and put Old Bay on their popcorn, for example — we can go through life feeling a little bit fuller.

There are family shapes, and friend shapes, and even casual friends-with-benefits-whom-you-actually-enjoy-the-prolonged-company-of shapes, but they all need to be filled. Maybe we won’t ever fill them, but we’ll always want to. We’ll always imagine that there’s someone out there who will hand us a tissue while we make the ugly crying face, who will get drunk with us and still like us after repeated foot-in-mouth insertions, who will stay up all night talking about the intricate functions of magnets. I’m fairly convinced that these people all exist, it’s just a race against the clock to find them.

And then there is that biggest empty space of all, the one we don’t always talk about, the one we sometimes pretend doesn’t exist — the one that wants a partner. Your friends, they will be partners-in-crime; your family, they will be partners in history, but your love — they will embody the term partner, suddenly giving it meaning it didn’t have before, filling out the word and making it round. And this, of course, is the hardest shape to fill. It’s so jagged and misshapen and filled with demands and specifications we know we have no right to make of another human being — really, who are we to be picky? — but we hold out hope that someone will come along and slide right in, fitting like the world’s most complex puzzle piece, making the picture clear.

But when we finally get them, when we’re with that person whom we’ve chosen to be there for everything from poorly-lit daytime sex to arguing over how to fold the hand towels, how can we be sure that we’re fitting them, too? They certainly have a space to be taken up, and are we really filling out the corners? Is that space going to change over time, and our rigid sides will no longer fit the way they used to? It’s a terrifying notion, this idea that we walk around with needs to be met and quotas to be reached, expecting someone else to smooth out our edges and adapt to fit the same position, even as we change. It seems set up to fail. And seeing two people who have managed to be strong where the other is weak — to complete them the way we’d all love to be completed — fills one with a combination of jealousy and confusion. How is this even possible?

This concept of a partner, someone who will be the other half that we all need in some way or another — what a precious thing. We all see so many people every day who walk around side by side, resigned to the idea of togetherness without ever being truly together. They don’t sew little patches onto the other’s rips, they don’t walk around with a little bit of plaster, filling in the cracks that appear over years of wear-and-tear. They simply exist within each others’ vicinity. Could there be a greater fear — to be so desperate to have this sad, empty hole in our hearts filled up that we’ll settle for the constant presence of another warm body?

If there is anything to worship, to cling onto — it must be consideration. Someone who looks at you for who you are and loves it — but does not let your mistakes and transgressions go unremarked. To at once recognize another’s fragile humanity while working actively to make them better — and getting the same in return — could we ask for more? Going to pick up breakfast in the mornings, ironing a shirt when the other doesn’t like to do it, drying the dishes while the other washes, filling in the empty space in each other with what little we can provide. Perhaps that’s all we want is this consideration, this taking a moment out of our constant, overwhelming ego to realize that the other person needs help, too. It’s so incredibly unglamorous and often thankless, but there seems to be nothing of more concrete value.

Because were all just little slices of Swiss cheese, covered with holes and imperfections, hoping someone will take the time to fill us in. TC mark

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