The Puzzle

The week before our first date, we texted constantly. At the art store with my daughter, while she shopped for pens, I bought a color-your-own puzzle: a sheet of white chipboard cut by jigsaw. I would write this man a love-letter, paint over it with watercolors, and deliver it to him in pieces in an envelope.

Assuming we fell in love.
I know what rebounds are for. Kindling hope.

At the bar, we leaned together, shoulders touching, telling stories excitedly while listening excitedly, nuzzling each other. Below the counter, we held hands, resting them on my right thigh, which he stroked gently with his pinky finger.

In the morning, I lay awake in his silent house with the sunlight streaming in through the break in the curtains. I stayed quiet and still, so not to rouse him. He slept with his hand on my stomach, his face buried in my curls.

I was sad in a way I forgot I knew how to be sad. The blank line of white light at the edge of the window. I was worn out from being physical with someone I did not know, from the love-making and talking. It felt like heartburn, that loneliness. I laid there and felt it for more than an hour without moving.

Later, I turned in bed, to look at him. I could not help but stroke his temple, the beautiful crinkles of skin around his eyes, the evidence of a life lived with joy. I woke him this way; he smiled.

At home, that afternoon, I found the puzzle, still sealed in its cellophane. The memory of playfulness, of hot aspiration. I left it where it was, on my desk, knowing someday I would complete it, and have it no more.

Author: `aqaq`

Tasia Bernie is an essayist, and editor of  She enjoys used bookstores, offal, and hard laughter.  She is a very good eater.  She lives with her daughter and two orange cats in Portland, Oregon.


v3 2024