Yasuko Thanh reflects on what happens when love is like a virus in this short story
It's the Little Things is a short story by Yasuko Thanh, part of CBC Books' Transmission series
You loved so much you tried to crawl inside someone.
Living with you would change his view on life, that much was clear.
Have you ever wanted to be part of another person just to feel safe?
You had friends. Kierkegaard told you if you didn't take a chance, you'd lose yourself.
Nietzsche echoed, In going to him, you are really hunting for yourself, which made the work of battering his defences enough to allow you in more acceptable, somehow.
But the problems started right away.
Charms and blood and prayers fenced you.
His mother said, "Keep away from her." Meaning you.
And he, under her influence, was like an armed man, shouting, "Stay back!"
You didn't let that stop you. You didn't let that make you ease up or ease off.
You knew deep down they were only trying to keep you, a stranger, in check. Their turf, after all. Still, you felt like liquid poison: plant sap, tainted wine. You flowed and stank and flowed and melted away. Adam's Fall from grace. The old serpent's venom.
Still, you wanted to crawl inside him. Someone.
The magazines agreed that the eyes were the windows to his soul. Catch his eye, catch his heart. (A few mentioned stomach. You put that in your back pocket.) You behaved obsessively. During a pestilence, what counts as obsessive behaviour, anyway?
That he should take you in with his gaze? That you should want this? Was your want obsessive?
What should you want?
Even in his heart, hanging on would take effort.
Machinating in all sorts of unacceptable ways to get him to lower his guard. Throwing yourself at him.
You met resistance.
You dove back in.
Against his natural defences rose, you gathered your strength.
You raced against time. You played hide and seek. Whenever you set off alarm bells, you pretended to hear wedding bells. After days of battle you reached his heart. You discovered the door locked shut.
You tried different ploys. You changed your presentation. You disguised your appearance. But you found yourself just a set of mirrors, replicating yourself. A plague, a woe, an affliction around you. You were a Great Imitator. But you were also a sickness, untouchable.
On the outside, looking in.
You hopped from man to man.
That was you.
You've hopped from man to man. You've changed who you were to suit the person you were with. You've (ab)used this ability to join him, yoke with him, become a part of him. You call this act bonding.
Loopholes, eyelets, and handles are "easy". Easing once meant to sexually satisfy a woman. Or, to lie next to someone. Disease took this ability away.
We stand, at this moment, in tomorrow's long shadow. As we, now, cast our own shadows backward. To what we were, are and always will be.
Symptoms of disturbance shrink us to our core. Adam's sin and the poison of the old serpent. Death by natural causes. Have you ever tried getting inside another person?
Yasuko Thanh is an award-winning novelist and short story writer from Vancouver Island. Her first novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, a historical tale set in Vietnam, won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2016.
Thanh's latest book is the best-selling memoir Mistakes to Run With.
Transmission is a new series of original creative works, commissioned by CBC Books, that reflects on time, place, identity, community and purpose in an era of COVID-19.