I am trying my best to adapt to the idea that this man loves me. I ask him, often, if he means it, because I keep waiting for it to be a lie. Every time I ask, I wonder what percentage of me is joking.
Did I mention, yet, how much practice we’ve had at pretending?
It’s well within my character-flaw wheelhouse to assume that I am unlovable, but mostly I’m just too practical to assume we’re suddenly being honest. It’s been years of pretending, of wearing masks, of never quite revealing everything, of avoiding vulnerability. How do we go from that to love?
Can we? Can anyone?
So much of me, of him, is still hidden; so any topics have been shoved to the back of our respective closets. So many parts of our history have been neatly wrapped in pretty paper so we don’t have to acknowledge how monstrous they really are.
Is that love, then? Wrapping the ugliest bits inside something beautiful, and agreeing never to open it?
He’s certainly the man I’ve loved the most, but also the man who’s hurt me the most, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of that. It probably says something about me that I avoid the obvious answers and go searching for ones that make me feel better instead.
“I love you,” he says easily, like it isn’t the hardest thing in the entire world.
“I love you,” I answer, surprising myself more than him, but it comes out more like a promise than a declaration.
I promise I’m normal. I promise I won’t run. I promise this will work.
Promises can be lies, too.
When he steps closer and kisses me, I’m still thinking about what I said, and hoping I meant it.
He takes off my shirt and I let him, like I didn’t just hand him my heart.
Back when he loved the Queen, I never asked him to leave her, and the reasons for that are crashing down around my head. I never dared to ask because I’m not that bold of a person, but also because even if I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t bet on me. I can’t promise him forever. I can’t even promise him the next ten minutes. I am skittish and independent and damaged, and anyone can tell you that’s not a winning combination.
My mind drifts to another place, somewhere he isn’t, and I wonder if it makes a difference that I love him. I wonder if it will change anything measurable in our connection to each other, or if once again we’re saying things we don’t mean. Maybe we’re still acting, still in character, following the script of our story the way the invisible writer intended us to.
Maybe, as always, we are lying both to ourselves and to each other.
He is still with me, much more present in this moment than I am, and I realize all of our clothes are on the floor again. It’s the way we communicate best, probably because we don’t say much. I shelve my fears for the moment. I can’t imagine anyone being able to get off while wondering if the person whose heart they’ve laid their hands in is being honest.
I let myself fall too far into the moment, and I feel his name almost escape the tip of my tongue; I bite my lower lip instead. We are not the kind of lovers who murmur each other’s names in moments of intimacy; we are not wired that way and never have been. We are not those people.
Or maybe we are, now. I don’t know how this works.
I don’t know anyone I can ask.
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