Our unlikeness took one of us after the severing of the cord to the crib by the window, the second to a dim corner, bound by the wailing cry of our neighbors.
They're grown now.
You and I migrated home. It was the first name we knew, as children, and our mother's face the first we loved. She was the first of green stables, ferry between the bonds of the earth and life above it.
We were protons, neutrons and the hopelessly divided electrons.
Then we found a butterfly on the sidewalk, with broken wings. In our fingers we imagined the magic of Her creation, us, so that closing our eyes and sniffing the new air we believed it was a power we possessed.
The wings were instruments of a body, and you and I mere objects of the thing that made us. The body lived on, without wings, just as the thing that made us grew despite our years.
We like to think we had a part.
But with no means of flight the body grew cold, hopping along in the breeze like a leaf on the sidewalk, dead.
We burned ants with a looking glass. We dissected the leaves of trees.
We knew death.
The yellow carriage took us over the sound of our own frail dreams, frail because what we found on the other side shattered them.
Ours, we learned, was an effort to preserve the mystery of our birth, life, with the knowledge that we should inevitably fail given the second mystery, death.
Between the two was the framework into which the moments of our lives were woven, time, and in which lay the secrets of our existence, the characters who populated our story, lovers we entitled to ourselves, to whom we felt conjoined on this otherwise solitary quest from nothing to nothing, dust to dust.
If we could catch it, we were told, before it was too late, we were to savor the first of those mysteries.
Love alone, the poet wrote, outstrips time.
The pains of adolescence rose in the absence of our child selves. And just when we realized our neglect, in our childlike folly, for those who'd made us and for whose arms we reached, they divorced themselves from the idea we'd made of them.
They became people, and so did we.
We took names, or better, identities that in the eyes of others displaced the ones we'd already made for ourselves. We learned to finish gracefully, with "thank you, ma'am," "why certainly" and "my pleasure."
How did we fare?
How was it that you and I were "young man" and "young lady," and that our demarcation told not just of our divide, but also of the curious assumption of our future together?
Somewhere, in the brave wilderness of lights, you were counting your fingers: One was a leaf, the second the stone. I was cutting days: Five 'til Christmas, seven to the New Year, 31 for Independence.
It was all symbol.
We spelled I and eye the same. We looked for the secret garden.
It was at the lunchroom table and the talk of other boys, and the giggling girls snapping their gum as they ran for the swings. The sand they kicked up made something new in the air - prints.
Seeing them was more precious than we imagined, for what we made of them in our minds on that ground was what they were to us thereafter.
So many times we thought of them that anticipation gave way to lesser resolve: Real things never matched their proposed reality.
Then pure numbers, whole numbers, and faces, numbers, names we learned to write.
There were dates and times. The breadth of our experience rose from the shallow pool of involuntary creation toward something new, something wrought of our fingers.
They were not our own.
Still, in the shyest corners of our thoughts we toyed with the word: Love.
What did it mean?
Who could it be?
We learned to travel. Road led onto road. There were new faces, new names. Ours was always the same.
Memory's persistence made every new person a reminder.
We felt old.
Then there was something in your name we knew. It was recollection not of the simple time, but of the time before our making - that was void, vacuum. It was open stables, palms to the floor.
There was something in a poem that was a girl we knew, something we couldn't describe but we knew we felt.
When we expressed it, when we told her, "I love you," she shook her head and she told us, "It's not love, my boy. It's friendship."
We stopped thinking deeply, we moved away. We didn't know where we were going.
All the time you were moving your own way. We met, half the way between here and there. It was a compromise, you and I.
Now we're the same kids in the crib. We're the ones without names, with nothing but the sound uttered from our lips, or the fluttering of wings.
We ask, "What should we make?"
Time alone, the poet wrote, carries forward the magic of our creation. And, it is said, "when he's plucked such mysteries as men / do not conceive - let the ocean grow again."
For M.M. The poet was e.e. cummings, the poem is "how many moments must (amazing each" from "Collected Poems." Paul Tharp is a first-year law student. Reach him with questions, comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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