I love you. I love you even when you make my cry so hard I feel like I’m turning inside out. I love you even when what you’ve done makes me hurt so bad I don’t want to breathe. I love you even when I feel like I’m glass shattered into a million brittle pieces, glinting on the floor in the dark of an abandoned house.
I love you even.
I love you even when you make me hate you and need you desperately at the same time. I love you when I feel too heavy to get out of bed. I love you when life doesn’t feel like it has a point anymore.
I love you when I punch that bag with my whole body, hands sweaty in those oversized, pink boxing gloves, and fantasize that I’m fighting for us, instead of because I fear there is no us left. I love you when I stay up late trying to chase you out of my head but all I can see is you when my eyes close and my head hits the pillow. I love you when I dream that you abandoned me at a party and I searched for you through worlds of bizarre and dangerous creatures, resigned and lonely, just to find that you weren’t worried about me at all. (I knew that before I started looking, but I searched for you anyway.) I love you even when you make me wish I could forget how to love, and in the same breath realize that I can’t and that I wouldn’t ever.
I love you when I’m crying in the shower and I can’t tell what’s water and what’s tears. I love you when I sing to you in the air because I don’t know what to say and when my throat makes broken, animal noises that wrench up from my stomach and still don’t match what I’m impossibly feeling. I love you when I have endless conversations to you in my head that run in circles and end with me staring broken at the wall. (You never say anything, how could you.) I love you when panic and rage and primal pain attack me from behind and all sides and ride my back and make me double up and want to scream and break something and just stop the world. I love you when I feel like I can’t talk to anybody because they simply wouldn’t understand. I love you when I realize and fear and anticipate and hate and question that I simply feel more than other people do. (There’s no simply about it.) I love you when I begin to think that something’s wrong with me. I love you when I begin to fear that everyone will leave me. I love you when I think I will be alone forever, that I’m a puzzle piece that no one fits. I love you when I sink into the terror of believing that I, me, my love, is never and will never be enough for anyone.
I love you even when you make me feel like I’m standing in the dark.
I love you when the tears are hot and burning behind my eyes but I can’t cry and release the horrible pressure. I love you when the small of my back is coiled with static tension and I feel like I’m about to burst out of my body and when I feel like my skin can’t hold me and when my heart in my chest aches so badly I’m scrubbing at it with the heel of my hand, hard, to try to make something fit there, to make it go away. (It never does. Nothing ever fits. How could anything.) I love you when for the first time I just can’t sing, the melodies just stick in my throat and become dark and ugly and then all at once empty. (Transparent, devoid of meaning.) I love you when I am angry (anger is not the right word, something above anger, worse, can’t find it…) at God, hard and hurting. I love you when I have to leave the church, hurry down the isle, narrowly avoiding knocking down a bulletin as I go. I love you when the tears begin to leak out as I stride down the sidewalk, dodge the people, they don’t need to know. I love you when I grip my hair in both my hands and pull, the tension opposing each other, an annoyingly silky thick bond that won’t break. (I am not weak, I am not weak, I am weak, I am so damned weak.) I love you when I crouch in an alley and let myself cry ugly, breath coming in ragged gasps, head tucked down to my knees, a convulsing, shivering bomb that just can’t explode. I love you when I rock back and forth compulsively, can’t stop, my body threatening to come apart. I love you when I feel these terrible feelings I’ve never in my life felt before, a real, physical, hot, burning aching that starts deep inside the bottom, back pit of my chest and burns up, spreads, seeps into the bones of my arms and makes them ache deeply like I have a fever. I love you when I return to the sanctuary (I wish it was a sanctuary) and stand among the people I know I should belong in know I do, but today I don’t. (There happiness is not mine, can never be mine, I want it to be mine, can it.) I love you when I bite the back of my right index finger, hard, to keep from crying in public. (Pain distracts from pain, pain I can control, pain I can start and stop and increase and decrease. Pain keeps me from going crazy.) I love you when I run my finger over the bumpy half moon shapes, temporary indented purple-blue bruising. I love you even when I hate myself, when you make me hate myself. I love you when I remain seated when everyone else stands, eats, drinks, in one of the most precious sacraments in my life, self-excluded, knowing that anything I say or do on that day would be a blatant lie. I love you when it feels like you put a hole through me. I love you when I feel like I’m walking around like I’ve lost something. I love you when I feel awfully lighter, like someone took something precious and heavy out of my chest, and there’s an empty spot where it should be. I love you when my legs buckle after I read something from you I wasn’t expecting, good or bad. I love you when one of the worst things I’ve ever read in my life makes me understand what the word shock means, why people feel numb after trauma, why it’s weird that people name a feeling that’s not a feeling at all, but an absence of one. I love you when I arrive at a day where I realize I don’t miss you, because you’re not you anymore, and I hate myself like never before. I love you when I realize even when I don’t miss you, I miss the real you just as much. I love you when I become terribly afraid that maybe the new you is the new real you, and I feel like a small boy with his arms wrapped around his skinny knees, cowering wide eyed in the corner of a cobwebbed cellar.
I love you when I can’t stop watching that stupid video of you doing the saltine challenge, watching your face, your cute little noises, the way they tilt up at the end, a young girl’s squeak of an excited giggle. I love you when you laugh, lips closed tight over bulging cheeks (crumbs spray over the table). I love you when all I have left of the girl you used to be is pictures, pictures, so many pictures. I love you when I hate him for who he is to you. I love you when I boycott his facebook page, and then purposefully return to it just for fresh glimpses of you. I love you when I can’t stop scrolling through old memories. I love you when I make myself read all the letters you wrote me from camp, holding the paper gingerly in my hands, revering, almost shaking. I love you when I realize I can’t fix anything, and never really could. I love you when I sob terrified on my bed because I’m worried that you’re drunk and something bad has happened to you and I’m not there to protect you and would you even tell me if something happened? (I don’t know. I hate this oblivion. I fear it like Augustus.) I love you when I finally acknowledge that I can’t protect you anymore, so I might as well stop trying. (I can’t, you know, stop trying.) I love you when I realize that I thought you wouldn’t ever do this to me, maybe just to other people. I love you when I know that I made excuses for you for years, when I realize my childlike, hopeful compromises covered up the truth. I love you when I hear that you lied to me, and have been lying for months. I love you when I realize with an awful sinking that I’d trusted you when I shouldn’t have. I love you when I realize that you abandoned me, want to keep me in a drawer, have me when it’s easy, pull me out when you want to look at me, turn me over in your hands, admire my colors, before you discard me. I love you when I realize that I believe you when you say you love me, yet believe myself when I know you will discard me the next day. I love you when I know you won’t do what you believe, just what you feel, flippantly, temporarily, in the moment, because you think it’s what will make you happy. I love you when I accept the heavy reality that you’re fatally, unforgivably, selfish and self-absorbed. (Are those the same thing? No matter, they don’t feel like it.) I love you when I sleep with your dragon with the friendship bracelet collar and immediately look for her the next day, only to find that she hasn’t moved from my arms (even sleep can’t take you from me, yet you are not what you once were). I love you when I realize I gave my heart away. I love you when the truth settles in that you broke it.
I love you when I remember creek-splashing, sun dappled days (rubber rain boots, and surprise mischievous hose spraying). I love you when I remember sleepovers with deep God-talks and movies during which you’re always falling asleep halfway through. I love you when I remember how beautiful you looked, wide eyed and daring, blocking that door with the bare bulb light shining through your long, brittle, cork-screw curls. I love you when I think about how much you loved purple, and blue. I love you when I remember how you used to have trouble breathing when you ran on muggy summer days, just like me, and how you got really grumpy during workouts, not so much like me. I love how we ate way too many iced sugar cookies on squishy, double hotel beds and launched into unstoppable giggle hysterics at bouncing cat websites. I love how you trusted me with your computer password and your deepest darkest secrets. I love how I know that when your siblings were born, Big George tested all the frozen meals he knew and came from all the way across the country to bring you guys the best ones. (I’d do that for you. You know I would.) I love that I remember. I love how you were honest with me and how I never felt you were hiding something from me. I love how I know you better than you ever know yourself, and how you even admitted it to me once. I love how I could go on talking about you forever. I love you when I know I can’t ever get to the bottom of this love you’ve placed in me. I love you when there’s memories I can’t touch, because they’re just too sacred.
I love you when I realize that you’ve changed, perhaps for forever. I love you when I realize you’ve almost thrown your faith away, dangling by a string in your hand like a broken kite. (Am I judging? I hope I’m not judging. God, forgive my judging. Help it all not be true.) I love you when I want to make a joke about how we don’t need the bar menu at the restaurant, and then realize I can’t. I love you when I realize that you’re sensoring yourself around me. I love you when I realize I know next to nothing about your life now. (Hanging onto threads from a myriad of broken conversations, grasping at their trailing ends, willing them to be true, and rejecting them all at once. Selective.) I love you when I finger that scar on my right knee from the hot pipe of your dad’s car and am fiercely glad I have it, for it feels right that you’ve left a scar on me. I love you when I know that I love you more than my own self (I would die for you, you know that, right?) I love you when I beg and plead for you on my knees in prayer in front of the Lord. I love you when I pray for you every day, when I realize that I’d been fearfully praying for you for months before the catastrophe. I love you when I realize that maybe I subconsciously knew there was a tsunami on the horizon and ignored it. I love you when I realize that I trusted you. I love you when we have one, final, seemingly perfect day, where everything we did was the same as what we would have done all those years ago, and when I still can’t salvage the awful change that has come over you. I love you when I realize the only time I ever held your hand was when I made you cry talking about this. I love you when I remember how you had no answer for me, no promises left to give. I love you when the fundamental little things about you that aren’t important at all and yet are somehow paramountly, supremely important, like your favorite color or whether or not you like tea, change and leave me behind in the confused, tossing wake. I love you when I can’t stand to look at your new instagram pictures, of you in bikinis with posing sorority girls. I love you when I realize you’ve changed from the girl I once knew. I love you when I want to be with you every second of every day. I love you when I realize you don’t want to. I love you when I realize you’re one of the most important people on earth to me. I love you when I realize that I’ve lost you. I love you every time I plead for you to come home.
I love you even when I realize I’ll wait for you forever, even as I hope I don’t have to.
I love you… I love you even.