I was lying next to my boy when he reached over and touched the sides of my face with the palm of his hand. Moments before, he had pressed his forehead against mine, and brushed the tips of my fringe across my eyes. I looked into his. He has spectacular eyes; big, brown warriors cradled by shadowy rings, tired signs of a life well spent. He sighed, and I smelt the two bottles of white wine we had drunk earlier lingering on the ends of his lips. I wanted to kiss him, so I did. That’s when he touched the sides of my face with the palm of his hand, and said, caught somewhere between a whimper and a whisper – “I think I love you.”
It took me awhile before I could say anything. The silence between us lingered, a white noise calmed only by the sounds of 2am breathing. I could feel his heart pounding beneath the skin of my hand, pumping blood to every pore in his body. That’s something else that’s beautiful about him. He has really big pores in his skin.
As we lay there, time existing in blinks rather than seconds, the only sentence I could muster was “I’m sorry.”
He rolled over, and I held him in my arms. I counted his pulse as his heart beat faster. I wasn’t really counting. It’s hard to count when there is a hole growing inside your chest.
I thought I sensed his sadness in the dark, but maybe it was just my own. I could see it when I closed my eyes. I couldn’t tell him I knew the happiness that he did. I couldn’t tell him I was feeling the same thing he was. That, I suppose, is heartbreaking.
Why? I wanted to. I wanted to with every inch of will that a person can possibly want something. I had always imagined love as an impulse. ‘I love you’ was reflex of speech, syllables that sprung off the tongue without warning or control. Despite the part of my brain that said, “Just say it, you must, you must,” my mouth felt like it was full of cement. He told me he loved me and I had nothing to say.
Perhaps my hesitation was because we had tried saying “I love you” months before. We said, somewhere in between candlelit dinners and morning legs that our love was small, that it just began with a little “l.” A little “l” that one day would grow into a big “L.” A little “l” that would grow into a big “L” and then into something you couldn’t spell out with 28 characters. It seemed harmless. A joyous three word sentence that could light up the day. The truth was, that with these three words, came expectations that neither of us were really ready for.
We became masters at disgusting our confused feelings about the other. On the surface, however, you’d never know. I would kiss his rosy cheeks softly after we did it, and say ‘I love you’. He would make me laugh so hard food would come flying out of my nostrils, and through the edible carnage, I would splutter “I love you.” We watched one another dance when the other wasn’t watching, catching a smile that we knew meant “I love you.” From the stolen glances from across the street to the weary head rest on the long ride home, we convinced ourselves, more than one another, that we must be in love. Inside, neither of us believed what we were saying. I liked him, and he liked me. We enjoyed the company of one another. But you don’t send nostalgic texts to ex-lovers when you love someone else, do you? And you don’t off handedly sleep with random French Canadians when you love someone else, do you? It’s easier than you think to look like you’re in love. As I’m learning however, it is a lot harder to actually be in love, or know when it is exactly that you are.
I cannot apologise for what I said to him. Yes, I sound like an ass. Worse, a prick. Worse, a cunt, for saying sorry after this boy, this beautiful boy with his cheeky grin and oily hair and veins that pop out of his forearms, told me – me with my man boobs and my high pitched voice and my repulsive morning breath, me, that he loves me. That he fucking loves me. How could I be so cold as to dismiss the emotion he feels? The sort of emotion that you feel behind your eyes and in your stomach, the raw stuff, the stuff that hurts, the stuff that comes when no one else is around. Just because our understandings of love are different, it does not mean my grasp on it is any more firm than his.
Today, I am sorry. I am sorry for having poor role models, parents who raised children but never really loved one another, and grandparents who did the same. I am sorry for not having seen The Notebook and Dear John and Gone With The Wind. I am sorry I had to Google “most romantic films” to come up with those titles. I am sorry I don’t see people kissing in public and think it’s adorable. I am sorry I don’t sing along to that song by Bjork where she talks about being in love and says “Shh” a lot and it’s all about being in love. I am sorry I like Alain De Botton’s Essays in Love because he makes a very romantic situation seem cold and logical. I am sorry for knowing what it looks like to be in love, but being clueless as to how hard you’re meant to cry at night.
I still deprive him from that sentence. I cannot confirm for my love for him. I am not sure that the emotions I feel are that thought ought to be categorised under the all-elusive banner of love. Maybe because I have no clear definition of the concept inside my mind. Maybe because I have, as Hermoine Granger once said, the emotional range of a teaspoon.
Whatever the reason, I hesitate still in saying “I love you too.” My hesitation proves the non-existence of my love, sadly. It is probably grounds enough to leave me. I know, however, that my hesitation stems from my confusion. Perhaps my only saving grace is that by its very nature, confusion requires input from two opposing forces. On one hand, I don’t know if what I am feeling is enough to warrant love. On the other however, there is still a something to consider. There is something there. Please, on that basis alone, on the something; be it devoid of any definition or understanding, forgive me for not being able to say “I love you.”
I have faith that I am getting there. I feel my fingertips light up he gets off the tram to see me. Sometimes when I’m tickling him and he squirms with laughter, I close my eyes and feel my shoulders tighten up as I smile. Him, beside me, as he sleeps, is the first smell I have ever been able to recall to mind. I never used to cry in films, but now I feel a burning sensation at the back of my eyeballs in some scenes. I feel like someone is finally tenderising the cold lump of steak that has been freezing inside my chest for quite some time.
And on that day, I want to wake up, take all my clothes off the hangers, throw them in the air, and dance around my house naked to Frank Sinatra. I want to run outside and kiss the neighbour and the neighbours dog and feel the sun on my face. I want to skate down Swanston Street and hold my hands out like I’ve been nailed to a cross, and pretend I am Kate Winslet in Titanic and scream out really loudly, “FUCK YOU MELBOURNE, I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD”.
One day, I want to look him in those beautiful, sad, tired eyes of his eyes, and say “I love you,” and feel the goosebumps of enlightenment run down my spine.
Please, be patient with me.