You can never quite remember the actual moments when someone says that they love you for the first time. You wait for it so long, practice how you will respond, prevent yourself from saying it before them (you wouldn’t want to look desperate), and then it happens, and it’s like you go temporarily deaf. There is a ringing, like a TV show that has cut off to go to an emergency announcement. This is an emergency announcement. And you can’t even hear it. It’s almost like your brain doesn’t want to process these words, because then you’d have to acknowledge them, and not just in your imagination. Besides, everyone who has ever said that to you before has left, so you might as well not even listen.
“I love you” will mean nights staying up watching someone sleep next to you, wondering why they haven’t left you already, wondering when they will. It means having to be naked with them with the lights all the way up, stinging every dimpled plane of your body with unforgiving clarity. It means having to take the risk that, as has happened so many times before, you will be disappointed. You will be proven wrong. You will live the reality of that fear you always have, the fear where they wake up one day and look in the mirror and say “What was I doing here? I could do so,%2