Sometimes those three words aren’t right. You think you feel what most people feel when they say those words, but those words aren’t the right ones. There’s got to be an alternative somewhere in the English language, but you haven’t found it yet. In the meantime, sit across from someone at a Puerto Rican restaurant and listen as he talks about politics or his childhood or something completely unrelated. Listen more to the tones of his voice than the words he says and be aware of your own words bubbling up in your throat like the beer in your glass. When you just can’t stop yourself anymore, tuck your hair behind your ears, take a deep breath and say:
“These plantains are really well-cooked.”
He will agree that they are.
But perhaps you’re not at a restaurant. What then? Perhaps you’re on the sidewalk, and it’s cold, and he doesn’t have gloves so he puts his hand in your pocket. You’re walking quickly because the wind is whipping through the nighttime streets, and all you can think of is his bare hand tightening around your gloved one. If only you weren’t wearing gloves, then it would better because touching is better than most things. Being with this person is better than most things. You come to a stop because the light has changed, and he looks at you all goofy from above the collar of his coat that he has buttoned as far as it can go and squeezes your hand. Look him straight in the eyes and say:
“You should really get yourself some gloves, you know.”
And he will agree that he should.
Maybe by now you’ve found your way to a sort-of-friend’s house party. How do you go about this now? You’ve said hello to all the people you know, you’ve had three-to-five glasses of wine, and you’ve been listening to some kid wearing an ugly sweater play his lousy guitar for half an hour. COOL he covers Lana Del Rey THAT’S AWESOME. How much is the appropriate amount of time to stay? You’re sure you’ve exceeded it by now. You must have. The boy you’re with has just come back from the kitchen and sits next to you on the window sill. He’s not touching you, just sitting there holding a can of Hamm’s and looking like he doesn’t want to be there either. He turns to you but doesn’t say anything, so you say:
“I can’t stand these people.”
And he will agree they’re the worst.
The dark helps, it always does, but if it’s morning, and the sun has got your freaked, you’ve still got options. You might be sitting with him at the kitchen table drinking coffee from mismatched mugs and saying nothing because sometimes saying nothing is the best thing to say. He’s miles away, and you’re thinking you should take a shower or fix your hair or at least brush your teeth because you feel dirty and self-conscious. You wish the sun weren’t so bright on your face and you wish there was something other than corn flakes for breakfast so your stomach won’t start making hideous noises. You’re about to open your mouth and say something to break the silence, but he speaks first. He tilts his head slightly and says:
“You make me really happy.”
And you will agree he does, too.