“We need to talk,” he says as he’s sitting on the edge of my roommate’s bed because the sheets are stripped from mine.
I let my gym bag hit the floor and slowly press my key into the nightstand, applying enough pressure to keep myself upright but not enough for Adam to notice I feel like collapsing. I swallow hard and tighten my core. It’s a reflex and this time Adam does notice. He looks tired, exhausted even, without intention of moving anytime soon.
“Do you want to get some breakfast?” he sighs.
I kind of do. I’ve never been one to avoid a break-up speech when I feel one coming, but the thought of letting Adam walk out of my room for the last time makes me feel like I’m back on the treadmill at twelve speed and can’t get off. I decide to buy some time for myself by preparing a bowl of instant oats right there on my desk hoping that maybe Adam will change his mind and remember the little things that made him fall in love with me.
I think of the millions of quiet qualities I adore in him and am hit with the depressing realization that it’s impossible for him to love me like I love him. I could never expect Adam to be in love with the gentle way I balance the spoon on my tongue while my quick oats settle like how I love the way light bounces around his fingertips when he drums them to a beat in his head. Although I’m sure he’s not giving it a second thought now, I wonder if he’s ever loved me enough to really look at me and see what others do not. I wonder if he’s memorized the way my shirt is always slightly ruched at the spot where my navel piercing meets my skin or if he’s ever pictured the tiny, cherry-colored scar on the left side of my cheek before he leaned in to kiss me. I wonder if I’m the only one who really looks at the one I love and if I’m the only one who enjoys discovering not only the inner secrets but outer givens that everybody else seems to ignore.
The little voice in my head shrieks at me as I raise a bite from the bowl to my mouth. It’s taunts are always the same and always make me pause before swallowing. For a moment I’m grateful that at least Adam doesn’t notice that. I don’t finish the bowl but the voice just won’t shut the fuck up and now it’s droning on about the last three minutes of my four-mile run that I chose to walk. The voice sounds as angry as Adam looks tired and now my head aches more than my muscles.
I’ve worked out six times this week and have eaten completely clean I tell the voice, but talking back never helps.
The voice is quick to remind me of the Sunday night I spent studying instead of in the gym and the pear tart I ate on Tuesday. I try to focus on Adam and imagine that I am the breeze passing between the cracks in his three-year old baseball shoes. Adam stands up making the cracks gape open. He touches the muscles on my arm, wipes the sweat from my cheek while caressing the cherry-colored scar and says, “You love me?”
He poses it as a question.
I do and I know what’s coming next so I panic. I start to tell him about the light on his fingertips and the breeze between his shoes and everything else I’ve fallen in love with.
“I do; I love you so much,” I finish and wait to have my heart broken.
“Then you know how it feels to be completely invested in someone, in everything they do and everything about them…” he says trailing off. “But you have no idea how painful it is to watch the one you love constantly telling herself that she’s not good enough.”
Adam’s voice silences the cruel dictator in my head and I’m stunned. I hear myself promising to be better, to return to therapy – when he interrupts me.
“No. We’ll go to therapy. We’ll keep going and keep fighting until you love you as much as I do.”