Everything unsaid; evaporating the night you leaned in, your lips brushing mine.
5am – balcony in Spain – teeth stained from wine –
You didn’t need me, and maybe I didn’t need you, but we made a choice that night that we did.
Standing there – Your hands pulling at my clothes.
Your hands, I remember- my eye catching yours. Your hands the same size as mine.
I’m sorry, you whispered – our mouths hanging open.
No, I said. Please.
I’m so sorry, you said again – pulling your lips from mine. I’m just a bit in love with you.
A smile spreading my cheeks in your hands, my lips on your nose –
Two worlds colliding while we stood there with the sun coming up —
Love, I found, is indescribable but falling into it was not.
Don’t leave, I pleaded, when you let my hand drop. Don’t go.
And you didn’t.
Laying there that night, our legs entangled–
Knowing I was wrong.
Knowing you should’ve left- your arms around me.
Protected yourself –
Told me I’d never be able to give you what you wanted-
Understanding then, that everything would stay the way we always wanted it to, if you’d left.
That everything between us, unspoken, raw– could fossilize in just that way.
You should’ve done that– I should’ve done that–
But I couldn’t. Your heart on mine, your arm around my neck;
Sometimes perspective comes late.
I cheated on you the first week I left.
5am– a balcony – teeth purple from wine –
But it wasn’t you I was kissing this time – whiskers cutting my cheeks.
It was everything before.
Good to see you, he’d said the next morning – pants halfway up his legs. Never thought you’d come home.
Yeah, I said – handing him a shirt. Good to be back.
And the truth is — it was.
That night it was easy to remember what felt normal; fearless.
What felt anything but you when I thought about telling my family you were real.
I hope you felt empty, you screamed. And it did.
Expected. But unexpected in that I was thankful for it.
Thankful to feel just that; naught. To feel like I wasn’t being pulled in two.
I was attracted to him when he kissed me– beer on his breath, and I was appreciative for it.
I justified it; Resented you.
You don’t know what it’s like, I said. I’d lose everything–
Hurling words in your face.
I love you, I cried. But I told you.
You don’t know.
You won’t ever know what it’s like.
Fuck you, you hissed.
You made that choice.
I used to wonder at times – if we’d have been better off friends.
What if we hadn’t –
Could I have walked away? Could I have saved us all the pain?
But then I remember when you first held my hand.
Our friends drifting home- the bar behind us closing– the sun peaking.
Talking in that dirty little alley.
You and I talking with smoke from our cigarettes escaping our mouths– coiling into our sleepy eyes.
Jesus, I laughed- pointing at the sun above us. Why do we do this?
Who knows, you said– cigarette in your mouth.
But you smiled then, and I caught your eye-
When we both knew why.
When all of our friends knew why.
When, by then, the world knew why but left us to fend for ourselves.
I’m tired, I admitted– leaning back against the brick. Call it a night?
You nodded. I can’t go home though, you said. I told my host mom I’d be out for the night so I’m just gonna get a hostel.
By yourself? I said. You can’t do that.
You inviting me over then?
No, I paused. I mean I can’t.
Alright then, Texas. Think you can handle a hostel?
And I rolled my eyes at you to prove that I could– took your arm, my hand sliding down your elbow– letting your wrist drop back to you as I led.
Yes, I’ll stay with you, I decided that night, hailing a cab.
Our kneecaps bumping when we climbed into the back–
Perhaps I’ll hold you too.
How is it that you sleep? I wondered. Our hands lying next to each other on the seat.
On your back? Your front?
Do you dream? I wondered. Do you snore?
The cab turning- laying my head on your shoulder.
Your fingers inching towards mine.
What if maybe all of this is okay, I thought that night- 10,000 miles away from home.
My fingers moving on top of yours.
To love you.
Sitting there, bodies next to each other.
Our hands connecting us.
To be in love, I thought.
What if it’s really okay? I wanted to ask. To be straight and gay. To just love a person.
Can’t everyone understand this?
Can’t everyone see?
The lights floating too fast.
The sun coming up.
Our eyes fading; hands never stronger.
I love you, I thought- staring down at our hands.
I think I’ll always love you- my fingers tightening.
But I’ll hurt you.
You smiled; I heard your heart in my ear.
And I knew then, both were inevitable.
It doesn’t have to be a year, you whispered once– trailing the streets in your neighborhood. We’d moved to England then–back to what was yours and not mine.
It can be all of them.
I have to go home, I’d said. I can’t leave my family.
You’ll have to tell them someday.
But I scoffed at you– certain that nothing could ever be the same if I did– ambling about, thinking I knew how things would feel, but knowing nothing of how things would ever really feel.
We can move, you said- in that way that made it always sound like everything was so easy for you.
To where? It’s not legal in the states.
New York- and I’ll marry you.
We’re barely 24, I said. We’re not ready. We don’t want it that way.
I’d do it for you-
A visa? I laughed. With what money?
You growing quiet beside me.
Life would never be the okay that it is now, I said. You don’t know what it’s like.
But you don’t have to live there, you said – losing the battle you never started.
It’s my home, I explained. It’ll always be my home. My family is my family, what about my friends?
They’ll get used to it, you said. Look at my mum.
It’s different, I said. You forced them all to accept it. You didn’t care that you upset them. You’re crueler than I am.
Cruel? You said- the light in your eyes burning- And I walked ahead, careful to not look. You are cruel to you, you whispered. And that’s on you, and no one else. You’ll never forgive it.
Stop, I said.
You’ll never forgive yourself.
But I ran ahead of you then – The bones in my skin pushing against the surface. Time running loose.
I wish sometimes, that someone once had reminded us that big moments are all you hold into -and that inevitably, the little ones become like details in a movie you saw once and meant to rent again later. Fading- Even when you keep reinventing them.
Ride the subway now, 2 years later, try to forget– Pass the apartments in Brooklyn.
“Love Me,” the Williamsburg building reads- graffitied on the brick.
“Love me,” you’d say– when my thoughts were away, my mouth drawn so tight.
See your face sometimes – in the person brushing past me on the street– An empty subway –
Stay, you said that last night. Your arms wrapped around me in your bed- the window open- Manchester breeze whipping us in that January chill. I’ll lose you if you leave.
No, I whispered, my stomach wrenching; suitcase closed. I’ll come back. Just give me some time.
I’ll figure it out.
God, you cried then, letting go of my hand. Just end it then. We’ll hate each other otherwise- and that’s all we’ll remember.
I couldn’t hate you, I won’t, I said- stiffening under your blankets- my hand reaching for yours–
That part was true. I couldn’t hate you- but I knew as your tears hit my cheek
I’d accepted that I’d never really know what it was to love you.
We often don’t realize it, but the first sentence of any truth is sometimes the easiest; riddled with obscurity.
I loved that girl, I’d say now.
But what is it to love? How do you love someone but cheat? How do you love and leave?
We rely on that second sentence to protect the holes in the first.
I didn’t have the courage to hurt my family, to accept things as they were, I’d say now. And I was scared.
The world is full of people who still think that different is synonymous with wrong, it’s true. But the truth it was all about being gay– the repercussions I didn’t want– nor the bravery to fight against.
Just because it’s better now in this world- doesn’t mean that it’s always fair. Freedom isn’t just about voting and marrying and kissing on a balcony, although all of these things are important. Freedom is what you will allow yourself to do.
And I didn’t.
I’m sorry, I’d say to you now –
I was scared of losing everything– Scared of what it meant in this world to be “different.”
The truth is that cheating, so often, is forgivable. People will forgive bad judgment, too many drinks, a lazy text.
Cowardice, however, is not. Years go by and I imagine you’ve forgiven me for the pain I inflicted on you. I imagine you don’t think of me quite like I think of you now.
But I, myself, will always carry the burden of cowardice.
And I’m sorry I wasn’t brave.
For I was incredibly in love with you.