For us, it came after a summer apart, a summer of my misguided attempts to use my body to distract my heart, a summer of rebounds. It came after a summer that you called me every single day, me only too preoccupied to hit “ignore” a few times. It came after a summer when I was sleeping around in order to force myself to believe that I could manage to get by with someone other than you. It came after a summer when I guess you were sitting at home trying to manage without me. It came after a summer that you succeeded and I didn’t.
I never actually made it a single step away from you, in any direction. I never had to get over you because you never went away. You were there when I thought I was falling for someone else (which, in reality, turned out to be the definition of a rebound). You were there pre-diagnosis when I genuinely thought I was losing my mind — “you’re okay baby, I’m here” you would say to me as I questioned the reality of my surroundings. You were (metaphorically) by my side when all of my friends stopped talking to me without explanation. You were there, just a phone call away, the whole time I was getting naked with random men, trying to trick myself into thinking I had made the right decision.
Well, I can’t. I absolutely cannot. It is not that I am unable, or incapable, of cutting you out of my life, convincing myself that you no longer exist. Oh no, I know I could do that. I’ve successfully done that with pretty much every other man that has ever caught my eye. I have learned to file them away, to see the beauty in every introduction and the lesson in every disappointment. Not with you. I can’t file you away because I am not done learning your lessons and I am not done teaching you mine. I am not done kissing you whenever I damn feel like it, and I am certainly not done with the way you look at me when you’re pulling off my jeans.
There is nothing in this world that makes me feel the way I do when you touch your hand to my cheek and kiss me, when you kiss me like you’ll never kiss another human being again, like I am crucial to your survival. You kiss me like you love me with your entire soul, because I know you do, or, at least I used to. I kiss you back like I love you with my entire being, because I do. My every thought and reality relies on you, on the slight under bite in your smile and your curly hair, on the way your eyes squint when you look at me and I can see that you understand me without you having to say it.
Yesterday was the first day in over a year that we didn’t talk at least once from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep. And last night I had a dream that I came to visit you, to surprise you. Everyone where you are was so excited to see me. I had to ask where your room was because my dream version of the place where you still are and I no longer am did not look the same as it does in real life — you know the way dreams do that? The place where you are and I no longer am is a place I will always call home, but in my dream it had changed, just as I fear we have.
I waited for you outside your bedroom door and when you turned the corner I started to giggle, only expecting you to be surprised and excited. You weren’t. My subconscious invented a version of you that could hardly look at me. He mumbled something about being really busy and maybe having to go to the Apple Store, and he ran away.
My therapist told me the other day that our relationship seemed to be “um, well, atypical.” When I relayed this to you, you asked me why. “Well, because we still love each other,” I told you, and as soon as I heard those words come out of my mouth, I realized they weren’t true anymore.
I have told you several times already that I am not going to stop telling you that I love you, but what good does that do when you’re already too far away to hear me? It hurts the most in that moment at the end of each of our phone calls, that moment when you say “anyways…” This your way of being subtle about expressing that you’re ready to hang up; you have better things to do than talk to the emotional wreck who “needs you” from 400 miles away. I either begrudgingly say “ok” or, more often than not, I will bargain with you.
“Just let me finish making myself this sandwich,” or, “Just let me finish this cigarette and then you can go.” I don’t want to let you hang up because I know that with every conversation ended, you are floating further and further away from me. You are so far away, but I am not done. I am not done telling you every tiny little thing.
It is in this moment, after finally agreeing to hang up, that you used to say it. I always knew it was coming and I always knew you meant it. In the place where those words used to exist, punctuating our banter, now sits only silence. A silence that claws at my heart like a little monster living heavy and restless in the pit of my stomach. This little monster hates when you don’t say those words — the silence, a slap in the face, an instant pang of intense hunger, starvation almost.
“I love you,” I say with as much conviction as I know how. Each time trying a slight variation in delivery, hoping that just maybe that will do the trick and you’ll start saying it first again — start meaning it again. Only now do you speak again. It seems as though my forwardness is the key to the lips you’re trying so hard to lock. It seems that way.
Responding almost too quickly, you spit back a calculated “I love you too,” we hang up, and it is so silly that just because of one three letter word, tacked onto a sentence that used to mean so much, I don’t believe you at all.