I always knew that there would be 7 parts. Not because 7 is my favorite number because 8 is my favorite number; because it is the number I always wore when I auditioned and tried out for things, the number on my basketball jersey, the number Kobe Bryant wore back when I liked him, before his ego made him unbearable. I’ve told you these things, I think. No, I chose 7 because 7 is the number of completion. Of finality. Of end. And that’s really what this is, yes?
I’ve never been one for writing love letters. Love has never been tangible for me in many ways; just some concept sung of in old blues songs, the synthesizing fiber of fairy tales I abandoned in favor of realism. I’ve never believed in love letters- even when I used to receive them- because they are just words on paper, no explicit action, no intent behind them to make them ring with sincerity. Just pages, paragraphs, phrases. Two dimensional adaptations of what should be infinitely multidimensional.
From the first day I saw you, you felt like home to me. And not home, in a literal way because we are from the same city, but rather an intangible place of being still neither of us have quite had before. This is what I am with you; I am still like I am very seldomly, if ever.
This is trivial of course. A feeling. And feelings change, a treacherous sort of ebb and flow when you are responsible for a soul who could, at any moment, disappear under the foam topped waves, trapped forever in the emotional purgatory of loving someone who cannot, will not, love them back.
I have drowned for you. Sunk deeper into the currents of words that should have never been given life, kisses that should have never been shared, physical and emotional intimacies that should have never been traded. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to swim, or maybe I was not strong enough to stroke my way out of the undertow. Maybe I chose not to swim away. I’ll never know, I guess. But I know that loving you feels like opening your eyes underwater; it burns, blurry around the edges, distorting the shapes and distances until they are what the mind prefers it to be.
This is not to say that I regret it. In ways you have brought me closer to the woman I always wanted to be; confident, strong, decisive, sharp tongued. You have inspired me, pushed me to a balance between who I was and who I will be. You get to me, get under my skin, but all without irritation, mostly just to grow closer to the heart of me, to spur me to more generously share this part of me with others. In ways you have saved me, a proverbial life raft when I’d otherwise thought that I might drown in the overwhelming push of who everyone thought I should be. In other ways, you held my head under the surface.
I have lied for you. Lied to people I love dearly, and I am not a liar. I have crept around to see you, manipulated popular thought to allow you to remain unscathed. I have fought for you, have fought with you. I’ve sat patiently idle and pretended that things you’ve done did not cut me, things I’ve seen did not bring tears to my eyes that so seldom see water. There are times when you’ve been gone, out of touch and I know where you must be, what you must be doing and the mental pictures in my head torture me, sear themselves into my minds eye, running an irreverent loop in my head like a bad movie I cannot tear my eyes from. When the credits roll, you come back, you kiss me, and tell me what I’ve come to think might be lies with genuine eyes. You kiss me but I don’t believe you. You touch me but I don’t feel you. You speak but your words lack the sincerity, the depth of these waters we’ve tread together and I feel slighted. Cheapened. I have settled for less than I deserve because… honestly I don’t know why. The only excuse I have is I loved you. And that is a paltry excuse at its very best.
This is not love, of course. This is in no way, shape or form that which can be disguised as love even with the most carefully painted facade. This is not what love is, these lies, these secrets. This is, in fact, some alternate universe we’ve shaped for ourselves over a year of conversations, feelings that keep us trapped here in the skewed perception of what love is really like on the outside. This is not love.
Or at least this is what I convince myself. Most of the time.
But at night when the air is still around us, when darkness has fallen and so have our defenses, I see you for who you are. Faulty but not broken. Fragile. Vulnerable. Just a man, albeit one that I would swim to the furthest edges of the earth for. I see the way you look at me, straight through my skin, and I feel it. I know that this is real. I also know that right now, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know what you see when you look at me. You are too secretive, too mysterious to reveal this to me in any kind of consistent way without being vague or laughing it off. And maybe this is what makes you so appealing; the unwrapping of layers, the constant unveiling of new idiosyncrasies to your being that draw me to you. For some reason, you move me. You stir up feelings I’d long thought settled at the bottom, only to find them swirling, just inches from the surface, shaken loose by your special brand of storm. I had not prepared for this, had not readied myself for the possibility because I guess, like many others, I underestimated the strength of the current on which you move. It is a mistake I will not make again.
I can accept the fact that you move me, yes, because it is a fact and facts do not change. I will not accept the conditions. You may walk away from me easily at any moment you choose, leaving me to drown in these memories we’ve made. You can leave without any guilt at wrongdoing because you did not have any ties to me. You can return to your quiet life as you made it for yourself, not a cheater because for all intents and purposes you are not in a relationship, no guilt because I knew your situation before I dove headfirst into a pool with no water in the bottom. And for this I will never forgive myself; for throwing caution for my own self aside so carelessly and diving into you, knowing the conditions, knowing you were dangerous. Really, I can only blame me for the injuries I’ve sustained. So logically speaking I can be the only one to start to heal me.
I do not pretend to understand your reasons. I do not pretend to agree. I do not pretend to comprehend why you would walk away from something tangible, something real, that even in my blurred state I can see, I can feel. I do not delude myself into believing that I am capable of being such a wise and mature woman that I can understand these events as they have unfolded due to some misplaced, ill-fated loyalty on your part. I will not pretend to know how its so easy for you leave us this way, when I think you know in your heart that you’ll regret this.
So this is our 7, our completion, our finality, our end. Because we knew, of course, it was coming anyway. I was nothing but a reprieve from the life you’ve built for yourself, and you never intended to stay in this alternate universe we built of us, you’ve always intended to leave me here, strewn upon the shattered memories, while you whistled Dixie back home to her as you promised, as though you’d never met me, never spoke my name or shared my heart. I’ve always known this. And I dove anyway. I will have to live with the consequences.
The physical reminder will be slight, as I’ll allow no traces of this torrid affair to scar the exterior I’ve so carefully erected. I will sweep this all up, gather it like dust and pack it in boxes, store it in a basement in my mind somewhere deep and dark to be eventually ruined by time and mold until it disintegrates and becomes part of the foundation. Maybe I’ll come across a surviving scrap one day, after trodding it underfoot for so long, and look at it fondly, allow a melancholy smile to touch my lips at the memory. But today is not that day.
So this is our 7, our completion, our finality, our end. No long love letter, but rather the tangible truth of a woman who no longer has to speak secrets and lies to know love. No fairy tale but a life raft so that one day, if I encounter you again, I will know not to dive, but to stay firmly on the shore where the undercurrents will not take me out to drown.