Tonight I am in love with you. Tonight, I will go to bed alone and tuck my feet under cold sheets. I will imagine that you are here with me. I will imagine you cooking me dinner; basic pasta with too much tomato puree. I see us laughing. We are happy. I think you smell like peppermint.
But tonight you are not here, so instead, I make myself a pot of rice that will take me a week to finish. I cook three dishes that I had to cling wrap into the fridge. I vacuum under my bed where all the dead skin is supposed to hide and I miss you. I miss the picture of what life would be like with you here. I wonder who would take care of me if I sickened and who would cry if I died. I feel the sudden urge to tell somebody about my day, all eight hours of studying in the library and lectures about human anatomy.
But when I see you next, I spend more time looking out the window. I spend more time waiting even when the waiting was supposed to be over. Our conversation orbits around safe topics like common friends and weather. It’s as if we are strangers pretending familiarity. I try to think the stretches of silence were intentional and not because we have easily run out of things to say.
I had an idea of you. I envisioned your personality on repeat to perfectly suit mine. I dug out all the empty parts of me that needed things I couldn’t give and I tailored your physical presence to all of that. You represent all the things I tell myself my life could be like, if only if only if only. My idea of you involves long discussions about contemporary literature and slam poetry. I loved that idea of you.
But that was only ever my idea.
It’s not fair to you. You’re only the right person when you’re not around. It is my own taste of shame when our meetings reek of disappointment. You never asked to be boxed into a complement. You have better things to do, like live life the way you want and have dreams you decide on. I can’t accuse you of anything. You don’t smell like peppermint and you never told me you did.
I have to cast away the image I’ve built up of you in your absence. I have to walk in with both eyes open. I have to love you when you’re here in front of me. Otherwise, it’s not love at all.