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J.G. Russell

Polyglot: a Love Letter and an Explanation for Patrick

I love you, I say in a newborn language, invented that very instant and spoken only by the two of us. Its first breath exhaled, the language self-extinguishes, because a language is only considered alive while babies are being taught to speak it, and we don’t have any babies handy. Already we’re using syllables our tongues couldn’t previously produce; something beyond even letters, clicks, or ululation – who knows what it will sound like the next time we say it, a decade from now.

You think it’s special when I say I love you, and it is. But you may think it’s special because I love only you, and that is where you would have misconstrued the whole thing.

I love you the way I love any arrangement of spontaneously colliding molecules. A deck of cards shuffled one in 8x10^67 orders. Don’t take offense. I love you a different way than I love the married man I slept with, and I love him differently than the married man I didn’t sleep with. I love you differently than I love the girl who kissed me in the dressing room. I love you differently than the pianist who made me origami flowers. The guitarist who always spanked me in bed. The singer I grew up with. The actor who died. The writer and the doctor who moved away. The social worker who came out four years after we stopped seeing each other. The fellow teacher who is showing me how to play Dungeons and Dragons. Each love is a hallway that leads to a door to a door to a door. Spinning off their own atomic infinities.

I don’t need to tell you that the first married man texts me articles he reads about space and archaeology – how he gets a kick out of being the smartest guy in the room, and how I like to let him pick my brain apart, like an excavation. I shouldn’t tell you that the second married man is quiet but he calls me once a week and we talk existentialism or sometimes just musicals, and laugh until tears river down our cheeks. You don’t want to hear that the girl from the dressing room reads me all her poetry – that it’s dripping with images of honeycomb and sunflower. The pianist lets his two cats shit wherever they want – and he mostly cleans it up. The guitarist asked me privately if I thought his other kinks were too weird and would girls laugh at him if they found out. No, I told him, you are perfectly normal, and his sigh of relief echoed across all of Texas. The singer I see once a year for a decent and respectable lunch and we both think back to the time in high school he fingered me in the basement and then my car got stuck in his driveway and I had to spend the night on his parents’ couch. We don’t bring it up. The actor goes without saying. The writer sends me pictures of opossums to cheer me up – I’m not sure where he got the impression that I like opossums. Maybe he likes them. The doctor is in therapy now, and recommends me books. The social worker dyed Easter eggs with my family one year and fell asleep with me on my living room rug. The fellow teacher pressed his forehead to mine all night, when he was drunk and later at dawn when he was sober, kept one hand gentle at the crook of my neck.

I love you but it is in a simultaneous way. I hope that is enough. Love isn’t linear and it doesn’t take turns. It falls like hail. It blankets the earth and pummels the body. You are loved now and before and then. You are loved since before my birth and until after my death for the million doors leading in a round to one another inside you.


J. G. Russell teaches high school literature in Troy, Michigan. Her work has been published in Pine Hills Review, Coffin Bell Journal, Belletrist Magazine, and Swallow the Moon.

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