“Your hand fits mine like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.”
— Judi Picoult
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I. But it’s obviously the only choice, and I don’t know why you’re making it so hard.”
“But . . . breaking up?”
“Face it, it just doesn’t work to be together. It’s not that complicated.”
“But—but how can you say that? It’s perfect together!”
“Look, it doesn’t fit.”
“But the picture lines up—“
“But the edges don’t!”
“Fine.” I threw down the puzzle pieces in defeat. “I give up. I hate jigsaws.”
“This was your idea,” she said.
“Don’t I have the right to complain about my own ideas once in a while? You do it all the time.””All I know is, it wasn’t my idea, but it beats going outside.”
She glanced toward the window, looking beyond its frost-bleared panes to the brightly moonlit snow outside. I thought it was pretty. She shivered just to look at it. I admitted to myself that it was cold, and at this point getting more than a little tiresome.
“Honestly,” I said, “I don’t believe that it’s March. If you ask me, it’s still February. See, my theory is that a couple months back, something earth-shattering happened, and the U.N. banded together and used top secret technology to mindwipe the whole earth, erasing February from their minds and setting us back a month.”
“It does? . . . I mean, naturally!”
She rolled her eyes. “No, these three pieces here. See?” She showed me. “What you said made no sense. That would mean it’s actually April.”
An awkward silence followed. Finally I said, “That’s what they want us to think. Wake up, woman! You’re enslaved by the media! Your buying into the twisted into the distorted lies the world governments are feeding us!”
She chose this moment to be tactfully unresponsive. We worked without saying much more than what qualified as necessary communication as we colluded to crack the quandary before us.
“You know,” I began, giving up on mashing two pieces together and turning instead to tracking down their allotted soulmates, “this is a lot like life.”
“You don’t say,” she murmured, deep in concentration.
“Oh, sure. In lots of ways. Life’s a puzzle we’re all trying to make sense of. We spend our lives trying to gather all the pieces and arrange them the right way. Sometimes we waste our time thinking two pieces fit together, like I was a minute ago—and then we realize they don’t. Sometimes we try to force them anyway, but there’s no use doing that.”
I found a handful of pieces that matched and quickly fit them together. I leaned back and viewed them with pride. “Sometimes, in an almost surprising flash of understanding, everything comes together, and we can be happy for a while that things are getting clearer.” I picked another piece that looked like a match, but after trying it against every edge of my section, I put it back in the pile. “Too bad it doesn’t always work that way. It never lasts.”
“Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work, and still doesn’t seem to come out right,” she observed helpfully, apparently frustrated in her search. “But it’s important to be persistent.”
“And sometimes it’s just nice to take a moment to appreciate the small little things,” I murmured, admiring a piece with half a sunflower on it. From the right angle it looked like a sunrise; from another it looked like a yellow octopus. I put it down and added grimly, “But who has time for that?”
“We should make time,” she said, picking up the piece I had put down and smiling at it. “We forget that too much. I’m lucky I have you around to remind me.”
I put my hand on hers. She twinkled at me. I said, “I’m glad to know I’m useful for a few things.”
“There’s another way a puzzle’s like life,” she mused.
“And what’s that?
“It’s better when you have someone to share it with.”
We returned to the puzzle; large segments were beginning to fit together, leaving only a few gaps to be filled. “It’s all about getting a clearer view of the picture,” I said, watching the materialization of a puppy and the slightly exasperated kitten it cuddled in a flower garden. “You examine, you calculate, you adjust, but you keep going, always trying again and again, never giving up, no matter how many setbacks and unexpected hitches and disappointments and frustrations stand against you. And at last, by working together, in the end,” I said—“ah . . . in the end . . . huh.”
“In the end,” she finished, “you realize you’re missing a piece.”
We exchanged glances.