Don’t get me wrong—I think you’re great. I like to eat dinner across from you, quickly glancing down at the fork idly fondling my food when you catch my eye. I like the coy smiles that pass between us, and the way that once we’re both drunk you become brave enough to hold my hand, and I become excited enough to hold it back. I like it when my phone vibrates in the night and it’s you saying something completely irrelevant, just so you could text me. I like that you like me; I like what we have.
But I can’t love you. I can’t love you because I couldn’t love the one before you, and I wont be able to love the one after you. It’s not because you’re not wonderful, or because you don’t deserve to be loved. It’s because you’ve melted into those other ones—you’re all the same. None of the dinners, the lazy days spent in bed cradling each other’s naked bodies, the little things you whisper to me, none of it is new. I’ve heard and done these things before, the motions are repetitive, and my responses are habitual. I can’t love you because we don’t have that special… thing… that makes every one of these practiced encounters seem brand new.
I can’t love you because I’m measuring you against a yard-stick from long ago, and you keep falling short. Every movement you make, every tiny word you utter, I pick up and hold towards the sun to see if you’ll turn transparent and I’ll see him inside your skin. When he’s not there—and he never is—I know I’ll never be able to love you. I haven’t and I can’t move on; it’s not your fault. I know I’m being entirely ridiculous, but when he haunts my sleep and I awaken in the morning only to see your resting eyes and your mouth agape on the pillow next to me, I feel disappointed, and I hate that I feel that way. I can’t love you because I’m entangled in the past, and I’m still not ready for the future.
I can’t love you because you adore me too much. Every time I wish for you to stop flattering me, to stop agreeing with me on every little thing, to stop fucking doing every completely nonsensical thing I ask of you, it makes me feel sick, ungrateful and mean. You’re wonderful for thinking I’m wonderful, but I can’t love you because you don’t love me for my flaws—you love me in spite of them. You don’t see me, you don’t even want to see me, for what I am—the ugly, pungent parts of my guts. You can’t and don’t want to tear these parts out of me while I scream. I can’t love you because you won’t defy me, because you won’t fight me when I’m wrong. I can’t love you because you don’t stand eye to eye with me and challenge me, demand of me, to be a better person.
I can’t love you because it’s too hard and I’m too busy. I’m so busy all the time; I barely have time to see my friends, the people I know I’ll be 80 with, if we all (God/ universe/ Mother Nature willing) make it that far. I keep trying to convince myself that you’re just not right for me but half the problem is I simply don’t have the time for you, and I didn’t realize my mental process was making these ludicrous deductions until a friend casually pointed out that I was a New Yorker now, and that New York was what was ‘happening’ to me. And here I was thinking I was just holding out for Mr. Right. I can’t love you because logically or illogically, my brain doesn’t compute having you any higher on my list of priorities.
I can’t love you because I’m happy on my own. It’s been almost a year now, and I’ve healed from the destructive force of a previous relationship. I’ve learned how to enjoy my own company and laugh at my own jokes. I can’t love you because if I do you’ll be in my bed with me at night, or worse, I’ll be at yours without my things around me. I wont be able to sleep spread-eagled, to eat crispy fried bacon in my underpants, to make plans to go out whenever I want, or to make plans to stay in whenever I want. I can’t love you because, right now, I’m enjoying my ‘me’ time far too much—I’m like a pig in shit. I can’t love you because for the first time in my life, I’m being selfish.
I can’t love you because I’m scared. Because I’ve been broken hearted and I know the pain of losing something I love all too well. I don’t have another heartbreak in me, and sometimes when I look at you I imagine myself as a younger girl and I know I would have ridden into the sunset with you, had you asked, even if you were entirely wrong for me. I can’t love you because I’m so tired of love; its commitments and risks. I can’t love you because I don’t know if you’re worth the commitment or the risk and I’m not willing to find out the hard way, although I sincerely hope that one day I will be. I can’t love you because I don’t want to, and sometimes I’m afraid that makes me a bad person.