I’d seen you before. Not you, but every other West Point-to-Kuwait-to-Some-Other-Place guy.

Not from a past life or anything, I just knew you’d be a guy who used to be in the army. You’d be from the south and wear a lot of button-down shirts in variations of blue and you’d slick your hair back and always have the back of your neck shaved.

I KNEW YOU BY PHOEBE BROSNAN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 76


The first day I saw you I thought for sure I knew you. Not from a past life or anything, I just knew you’d be a guy who used to be in the army. You’d be from the south and wear a lot of button-down shirts in variations of blue and you’d slick your hair back and always have the back of your neck shaved. When you’d smile a real smile, you’d be shy about it, tilting your head down, in deference. Lifting your head up just at the end of the laugh, letting me catch only a glimpse of the squint in your eyes and your quaint dimpled cheeks.

I’d seen you before. Not you, but every other West Point-to-Kuwait-to-Some-Other-Place guy.

And then we spent some time together, and you were that guy. I was not wrong. I can picture your big square teeth sitting there in that mouth of yours, all of those teeth falling in a straight line, in that perfect body, sculpted and rigid and upright. I want to be all of those things. And all the things you told me to make you seem more human just made you less of one.

The John Berryman poems you memorized and your half-hearted Catholicism and your sobriety. Don’t keep telling me how much I already knew you.

I want you to tell me about the dead bodies you’ve seen. I want you to tell me why your right leg goes stiff when you walk sometimes. I want you to tell me what you did when you were lonely in the desert. I want to know where you buy your clothes. I want to know why you’re here. Just tell me it’s because you’re lonely and unsure too. I don’t even want you to cry, I just want to look at your face for a full minute, without you chewing Nicorette.

All of this makes it seem like you didn’t already know me too. Like everything I said didn’t just confirm I’m the kind of girl who would write something like this. I wonder what you’d need from me, to know I’m lost. Did I try already?

When you asked me what my vices were, after you told me about the cigarettes and alcohol. And I told you, “I’m lazy. I’m really lazy.” And you said, immediately, “Me too.” No one with your body is lazy.

Maybe I should have said, I will cheat and not feel guilty. I will try to get away with whatever I can. I would sleep all day if I could. I would drink every night. I would wake up right before the sun goes down completely, when you know it’s night but the sky is still blue. The sky dipped in an indigo vat. A blue you know is blue is blue and just to remind you, the bare trees float against it, black and spindly.

That’s when I would wake up. And I would pour myself a drink, a glass of wine because anything else would take too much effort. And I’d put my headphones on and find a new sad song and listen to it on repeat.

And look at myself in the mirror, after I’d listened to the song long enough to know most of the words, so I could sing them while watching myself. And then start thinking about all the people in my life I love but I don’t tell enough.

For a brief second I have all of the energy I’ll ever need to do the things I really want to do, like write my mother or make a collage or organize my books by binding color. But those feelings just turn to guilt and eventually I’m watching myself cry, which makes me cry even harder. My eyes get greener and my lips get pinker when I cry, and I’d love for you to see how pretty I can be.

Do you think you already knew that was me? I lent you Bluets, and that makes sense.

There’s nothing to figure out, really. The two of us, studying the minds of all these other people. Taking years of our lives to learn about how it all works, what happens when a mind goes dark.

Now I know how to talk about all of this abstractly, clinically. Now I know what to say about you. You existed to me and maybe I did to you, and we are pathological.

PHOEBE BROSNAN

I write to get unstuck and feel human. I write fiction to remember why I changed course and started studying psychology. The therapeutic relationship is fascinating, both intimate and distant in its own way, and I wrote this as a reminder that therapists are messy too. I’m a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Boston University, and most of the time I’m writing academic/scientific papers related to some combination of yoga, anxiety, and families.