you had lived in the house by the sea, salt and brine tangled in your soft curls and every time i came to visit you would smile and drag me into the surf. it felt right to laugh and hold your hand, the salt water couldn't wash away the black stains on your hands from the inkwell in your father's study that you weren't meant to touch. we pressed our fingerprints into a pebble and tossed it out to sea.
in another life, we were closer.
you'd been reading on the train, and there were no seats left but the one next to you. why no one had sat next to the charming girl with the book, i had no idea. i sat down next to you. we talked so long we missed our stop, but i walked with you all the way until you turned at the fence with the hanging roses and bade me farewell. your cat came out to greet me after you left. he always knew when i was coming.
in another life, i was different.
you'd been our prisoner, a filthy woman dressed in soiled rags and mud-smeared cheeks. i never hurt you - no i could never, those eyes - but i could never quite save you either. you never told me what you'd done. i never asked. just handed you your tray of food and sat with my back up against the iron bars, telling you stories from my childhood until you went to sleep. i learned later that you had killed the sherrif's son. clever girl.
in another life, you were frightening.
we were comrades, you and i, but your golden hoops spoke volumes about the confidence in which you screamed for the cannons to fire - i possessed the amount of swagger that you could've lent me with a kiss and then stolen it back. you never took hostages, no, they could join or they would be left to drown. but you never left the children. the women were questionable, for you feared another like yourself stealing your crew away, the only family you had left. i heard you crying once, but never spoke a word of it.
in another life, we were wild.
you disliked me at first. but we were children, and children change their minds quickly. modesty was never our concern as you taught me how to climb trees, how to look for tracks or how to catch a rabbit (i was always far too squeamish for the skinning part, and so were you so we had to ask your mother). it didn't feel like we grew up, but the trees that reached the sky somehow seemed closer to the ground now. i kissed you for the first time hidden in their foliage.
in another life, you dreamed.
you dreamed of earthquakes as they shook the ground, you dreamed of lightning and thunder - your uncle's home was scorched and his flock of sheep bleated like dying men - you dreamed of sunlight strong enough to make poseidon shrivel to a husk of a god if he ever set foot on land, and the drought made harvests difficult. you dreamed and dreamed, but all i could do was watch and hold your hand. for you dreamt, but were never asleep.
in another life, i was quiet.
we were so similar then - smart, humble, and with a resilience that kept our backs as straight as the ladies who wore corsets in the past. you would show me your work and i'd be delighted, all the time we spent together, like a holiday in a place we already knew as home. but i stayed quiet. i didn't understand how love could stand further than the constraints of a bearable marriage between a man and woman. you left. i didn't blame you.
in another life, we grew old.
it seemed improbable, these cursory turns of events that we'd come to associate with falling in love. it was slow that time - stolen glances and long drawn out discussions about what we wanted to become. it took months for me to dare to hold your hand. you'd speak your mother's native tongue as you ran your fingers through my hair, and i would touch your fingers to my lips, one by one. we were married for fifty years, and i kept sunflowers next to your bed.
in another life, we never met.
countless times, little coincidences would add up, but neither of us noticed each other. it wasn't just one life, this was the reality of dozens of cycles. like a butterfly's wing, i'd see you in a crowd, but by the time you turned around i'd already be gone. it was cruel. sometimes i lived alone. you got married once, and you were happy - but i didn't see the wedding, how could i have? as often as our paths intersected, we remained utterly and hopelessly parallel.
in another life, another life, going round and round, this game of the gods to see how we met, how we grew, how we loved - no matter.
we can't remember those other lives, so we'll live this one like it's the first. every time i see your words, i smile. i think you smiled back too.