I was almost thankful for her, at first. She was the wall I would have built myself. But she was already there, casting a shadow over our possibilities. I wanted to stand in the light, so I stepped away. It was effortless. I turned, not bothering to look back.

It’s not me; it’s her.

Her memory is wrapped around you. It surrounds you. It fills you. There’s no room for me. Your desire to shed her is only eclipsed by the inability to really do so.

That’s the truth I told myself.

I clung to it. Desperate. She was your past, but clouded our future.

And then I stumbled on my escape. My foot caught, and as I fell, your hand caught mine. You steadied me. Pulled me up beside you.

But it was OK. The wall was still there. I was safe. She was my safety. She’d stop me before I went too far.

We started. Maybe again. But it felt like over. Warm beds. Late nights. Walls. Still, safety.

Then, change.

I didn’t anticipate it. The shifting feelings, as delicate as sand, one grain at a time. And then all at once. She’s still there. But her presence no longer comforts me.

It undoes me.

If she’s still there, how will I ever be?

My feelings grow without permission. I no longer lean on her. I can no longer leverage her. Now, my fear is yours to hold, though you don’t know it’s been given.

Any firsts we have will be your seconds.

I’ll always be your second.

And though you say that wall is behind you, I wonder if its presence balances you.

She’s there. I’m here.

Where are you?

I’ve now built my own. But mine isn’t just one; it’s made of all of them. Not firsts—fears. They grow, and tower over us.

I no longer thank her. She supports my wall, holds it steady. And I wonder, is it me or you who topples it?

Maybe it’s us. Together. If we make it there. I hope we make it there.

I’ll be your second, and hope I feel like your first. Again. Or—over. Where I want us to be, over the walls.

Yours. Mine. Together.

WritingAllyson Marrs