Love is sitting in the waiting area at the Olive Garden on a Monday night, because, “Babe, everyone knows about Olive Garden on a Monday night. It is THE place to be.”
Love is watching our fingers entwine and my foot tap your leg, and the smell of breadsticks and garlic. Laughing and sarcasm, and pure contentedness in a simple chair. Next to him. Close to him. Never close enough and always sinking further.
Love is your dream on his skin, bright in his eyes when they fall across your face and you have to smile as the host invites one party, then another to be seated and they both arrived after you. You’ve clearly been skipped and now it’s been close to 35 minutes when you were told 10 and his hand is there on your leg, and it’s warm.
I love you.
Every inch of your skin smells of it. Everything in you is reaching out at once and you just want to keep touching, keep it going, watch it.
Love is the mirror couple, younger than you, sitting across in the waiting room and they kiss and smile, and you watch them and you analyze, “New love. Young love.”
You surmise and conclude that of course it is nothing like this pull in you, this happy, solid gravity sitting next to another person who isn’t another person but he is home, and everything to come, and you feel a kind of pity for the young couple in front of you, they have so much to learn and so far to go.
Love is the date he took you bowling and wouldn’t flirt with you. Well, not really, like a boyish flirt. And you had so much fun and he wouldn’t kiss you and you couldn’t understand so you told him, you had to tell him, he was about to be friend-zoned, it was critical. And he kissed you, not right then but later, and he kissed you and you couldn’t stop kissing back.
Love is waking up laughing in his bed. After your first night together, just kissing and laughing and nothing mattered. I mean it really didn’t, anything or anyone that had come before, you didn’t care because you were here now and he was here now and you woke up laughing, and happy.
Love is the first time that plans fell through and your gut sank, but you couldn’t name why.
Love is the second time.
Love is your hand on his cheek and your heart in your throat. When you’re crying and you still can’t name why. And maybe it’s your fault?
Love is the first revelation. The first lie. The first chip in your hope.
Love keeps going, though.
Love is the sound of your name in his voice, when he put his T-shirt on you, and a pair of boxers after you’d had too much wine. Wine to forget, wine to get back at him.
And you cried, but you don’t remember. And you apologized, you did (for nothing, for him, for everything), but you don’t remember. And he slept there with you, and kissed your cheek, and brushed the hair out of your face.
He slept there with you, with his face next to your face. And, honestly, how is that comfortable? But it was. It always was with him.
Is love this moment, too? Is love here with you, now? Here in the aftermath.
And he’s sitting there in front of you, with both his hands holding your hands and a tear caught on his lip. He is sitting there explaining with no explanation and it’s like cymbals banging in your head and you’re talking, or yelling, and it must be words but you can’t really hear and it doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters is the sharp, heavy, bolt in your gut and you want to get it out, you need to get it out and he’s looking at you and the words, “I love you” and you’re crying or you’re yelling so you don’t really hear, you’re listening but you’re remembering the words he used, the way your gut felt the weight of the lie through the text message.
Your phone dinged and his name and his happy face popped up but the words were like stone, like sharp stones and the feeling didn’t match the translation and you should just relax and it’s fine and you’ll see him tomorrow. It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.
And now he’s sitting there with the nothing that was something that’s become everything all spilled out and breaking, it’s breaking on you- or no, it’s you that’s breaking.
You’re breaking. Your voice is shaking and your hands are shaking and your thoughts are racing back, back across every time he smiled at you — examining every word, every happy moment, taking them all apart piece by piece.
You go crazy, trying to remember, shuffling through the negatives of memory.
The way that hope can still hang around, shattered. All mangled and apart. All the pieces there, refracted, and reflecting different things.
The way that Love doesn’t leave — but maybe you should?
And now he’s wearing the ring you gave him for his birthday, not on his middle finger where it was meant to be, but on his right ring finger because it didn’t fit.
You were supposed to get it sized, and then engraved. It wasn’t supposed to be anything dramatic. He had a ring and he lost it and you know what it’s like when you’re used to wearing a ring on a certain finger and suddenly it’s not there anymore, and it just doesn’t feel right. Something is missing.
You wouldn’t think you would even notice a thing like that, but you do notice, when your fingers stretch to twist it around and it isn’t there you notice, something is missing. So you thought you would replace that for him.
And he’s wearing the ring now and you love it, you love seeing it on his hand, you love how it looks because it matches the dream that was there, but also there is something sad about it now, there’s something missing.
There is something sad about everything now. And he looks at you, his face, God his face. He looks at you and you love him just as much, you love him just as much.
But there’s something sad in you now, and you wouldn’t think you should even notice, but you do notice. You do. There’s something missing.
What is love?