“I’m in love with you.” It was the first time these words crossed my mind and left my lips with not one ounce of doubt or hesitation. “I’m in love with you.” I told you as we lay on the mattress on the floor of my tiny bedroom. I traced your face with my fingertips and stared at the perfect human being next to me. Thick hair, dark skin, and a laugh that could seemingly erase worry lines on my forehead.
“Hey…I like you.” It was the last thing you said to me before we went to bed that night. It had become a habit, a joke between us, a towering understatement to our true feelings. In only a few months something transpired that surpassed both of our expectations. You were confident and assuring while I was innocent and enthralled by you. I felt you turn in the night. “Hey,” you put your hand on my shoulder, “I love you.”
“It feels fake,” you said, “It seems like I’ve been talking to a stranger.” The 17 year old girl had woken up in me. You were right, you had been talking to a stranger. While you were confident and unwavering, I was apprehensive and fearful. The me from so long ago questioned, ‘What if he changes his mind?’ I couldn’t lose you, so instead I began creating my own distance. “I’m more angry than I was before,” you said, “I’ll leave you alone.” ‘Don’t leave me alone. Don’t ever leave me alone.’ I thought.
“I don’t want to lose you,” I said, surprised by my own honesty. “I’m sorry, I love you,” I said. “I’m sorry, I love you,” you said.
“She is sick,” I said over the phone, “I’ll still be there to pick you up from work.” You asked questions that in the blur of my grief I don’t remember. And I mumbled numb replies.Your voice and the traffic were comforting: steady, contained, distracting.
“Let me drive,” you said. “I’m staying home with you tonight,” you said. “You need to eat something,” you said. “I love you. I love you. I love you,” I heard.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I lay on your bed and cried. Sometimes the world gets too heavy. I covered my face with my hands and tried to slow my breathing. You enveloped me, shoulders on either side of my chest, and cupped my face in your hands. You couldn’t fix it. Nothing you said really made it better. But you stayed.
“I love you,” you whispered, and you rubbed my back until I fell asleep.
“I thought we talked through this. This conversation should have been over with last week.” I had done it again. For whatever reason the words that first carried so much weight felt more like a recorded message. “Your call is important to us. Please wait for the next available operator. Oh, and I love you.” Hollow. Instead of embracing those words I had begun inhaling them. Not cherishing them, but tallying them to see if it really added up. I refused to be blindsided, fooled, or hurt. I took everything as a sign of your fading interest, your displeasure with me, your desire for something better. I had chosen to not need love for so long, that now I didn’t know how to accept it.
“I’m in love with you.” you said, “We are bigger than this.”
I can’t explain to you why I so easily forget the love you have shown me. I can’t rationalize the anxieties of my mind. I can however, tell you why I love you.
Your broad shoulders lessen the weight on mine. Your mind is constant and considerate. Your heart is kind and seeks restoration. Your skin is warm and overwhelming. Your laugh is infectious and so genuine. When you close your eyes your face becomes childlike and innocent. You fiercely protect your family and your friends. You take my dreams as your own and share your own with me.
You love me, I remember, scars and all.
“I love you,” I said as we pulled into my childhood home. “I love you,” I thought as I watched you bond with my brothers. “I love you,” I laughed as you chased and startled my little sister. “I love you,” I smiled as you shook my parents’ hands. “I love you,” I replied when you asked if I wanted ice cream. “I love you,” I laughed as you rapped your favorite song. “I love you,” I said when you had done nothing at all. “I love you,” I said, and I was sure.
“I’m in love with you,” I said, and I’ve meant it every time.