How to find beauty in solving a broken puzzle

By GABI SWISTARA | October 18, 2018



There’s more beauty to be discovered in imperfect puzzles. 

Your bathroom drain is being sluggish, slow. But it’s not broken. You just can’t use as much water anymore or it’ll overflow.  

As you get closer to people — people in the general sense — you will learn their intimate details: the reason they never talk about their wives to pretty young girls. How aggressive they are when meeting without a sea of witnesses. You see their cracks. You see how broken they really are. 

At dinner with Jake you open up about why you are so skinny, and you ask him if he thinks you’re bony. The lights in this converted warehouse of a building dangle orange light overhead on wires so thin you wonder how they never snap. 

He does not think you’re too bony. Note: “too” is the keyword here. You try to smile and a ribbon is tied between the two of you.

Amy Schumer asked which Johnny Depp you’d fuck. Trainwreck. The Johnny Depp you’d most like to fuck is Captain Jack Sparrow for a number of reasons: confidence, an amazing beard, a memorable walk, luck, courage, his “way” with women. But probably mostly because it reminds you of a time when Johnny Depp was just that clumsy pirate.

Jake wasn’t sure “how much longer he would be here.” “Hopkins?” you ask. “No, here. The world. Alive.” You opened up to him and he opened up to you. A ribbon you use to tie yourselves together. 

You say you’re glad he’s still here. “I really care about you,” you say. He cares about you, too. Wrote a poem about you that he won’t share. He says he’s doing better now, that “the storm has passed.” 

Moving into your new, fancy apartment, you thought there would be two settings on the light switches: off and on. There are about twenty: dimming, color, other bullshit, none of which work. It’s not as simple as a binary. It never is, and it’s even more exciting when it’s broken.  

You ask about the poem he wrote about you, “please let me read it,” you ask again, again. Thinking at this point it’s something horrible, “It’s rhyming my name with crabby or flabby, isn’t it?” you ask. That makes him laugh. He has a wonderful laugh. 

Finally, he lets you read it. He pulls it up on his iPhone, hands it to you — it is warm. His brown eyes in hollow, tan casing watch you. As you read, you smile. 

It’s a warm poem, something about a dream and falling, something about a “her” who is pretty, something about a “fair.” 

You will forget the words but not the way it made you feel. You will wish you had a copy of it to read again, again, but you do not ask him for that copy. 

Adversity gave you and him mutual understanding, an acceptance of your bound humanity. So many ribbons, it is a mess; it is a pretty mess. 

You’re trying to build a puzzle, but so many pieces are missing. You don’t know much about love, how to define it, how to find it, keep it, lose it — these are just things that happen to happen to you. 

You do know that you can’t just love a person in pieces, though: James’s humor, Peter’s charm, the way you feel around Jake, Chad’s abdominals. 

It’s the pieces that are missing, the holes in the puzzle that let the sun shine through in different places, reflect on your glass table, that make each puzzle unalike. 

It’s the pieces they lose along the way and the pattern of their missing parts that make you love the puzzle, that make it something you would spend time “solving.” 

If you or someone you know is suffering, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, 24/7 confidential support through their toll-free hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. 

The Counseling Center can be reached at (410) 516-8278 during normal business hours. In case of an emergency outside of normal hours, a counselor on call can be reached through security at (410) 516-7777. Campus Ministries may be reached at (410) 516-1880.

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