In 1996, when I am 17, I will tell an almost man “I know you love me, even if you don’t say it,” stop hurting me on purpose, and he will say “of course I do,” and I don’t know how, and in the years to come I will think that I am never wiser than in that moment, when I learn that loving someone also means knowing when to say no. And when we are 38, I will say it again, not the love, but that denial, that unwillingness to accept anything less than his best effort.
A year later, the new boyfriend still brings him up more than I’d like, that boy of my youth who is also the man just before him. I do not know how to explain to him that I would not take him back even if I could, not for all the history between us, because I am not someone’s consolation prize any more than this new man is mine.
This one does not tell me that he loves me, but does not have to ask me to forgive him either, lays his head on the couch one night, his arms across my legs, my hands in his hair. We enjoy the night like that, my hand on his head, the warm heat of his on my leg, the tv flickering in the dark living room, insect song from beyond the open window, the moon large.
He does not tell me that he loves me, but unlike the first does not ask to accept love and hurt as something that go hand in hand, and because of this I know that when he leaves me it won’t be in pieces.
Because of this, I won’t be in pieces. When he leaves, I will recall only that quiet night, my hands in his hair, that moon, so large, all the world, singing.
Will recall only him, unexpected.