Don’t call me your lover.
The worst love songs live in the word “lover.” It’s all silk and red roses and tacky rhymes. Call me your friend. It’s more solid, more believable, more necessary. Call me at 3 a.m. and expect me to run to where you are. Call me your home. Call me home when I’ve lost the map that will take me back to you. Call me back when I’ve forgotten who I am. Call my hands beautiful when you unclench my fists and take away the pills. Call them powerful when I sink to a heap on the floor and lose the strength to get up for days. Call me beautiful, darling, because there are so many times when I’ll forget.
Don’t tell me you’ll stay forever.
That word is poison. It means absolutely nothing. Instead, say you’ll try. Say you’ll do your best to be big enough for the waves that will come our way. Tell me when you can’t so I can remind you that you are not in this alone. Say you’ll be honest when the time comes and walking out the door has become more attractive than our shared bed. Say you’ll be brave enough to break my heart if you need to. Please be brave enough.
You’ll need to lie to me sometimes.
Tell me there’s a heaven for dogs when I need to put mine down. Tell me there’s also a heaven for people when I cry with seven years’ worth of grief I still can’t let go of. Say “delicious” when I’ve cooked for two hours but the pile on your plate tastes like trash. Likewise, I need you to be brutal with the truth, too. Say I’m an itch with a capital B when you get scratched with the angry, irrational parts of me. Bring me down a notch when I’m standing on my pedestal of pride. Don’t agree with me when I say I’m too good to fail but you know that I’m just too scared to try.
I will do the same for you. I can’t promise I won’t try to love you like an epic story because most of the things I know about love come from books and poetry. But flesh and blood people have already broken this heart, baby, so don’t expect me to want to fuck you in the shower and kiss you in the rain.
I will kiss you when you have a fever and a runny nose and a boombox cough. I will kiss you during movies and with garlic breath and in front of your friends. I will hold your hand in public and tell you you’re beautiful when you forget. I will sing with you off-key and dance with you on the cold tiles of our kitchen floor. I won’t forget why the 6th of August always makes you sad, and I will prepare a picnic so we can eat beside his tombstone when I meet your dad. We will fight over the little things, like leaving socks on the floor, or being late, or forgetting birthdays. But we will fight for the big things, too, like calling me your girlfriend in front of your family, or holding hands during funerals, and through bad news while sitting in a doctor’s office.
Don’t call me your lover. I don’t need you to promise forever. Just try your best, love, and it will be enough.