I do not know what love is anymore. I only know that I now run from it; faster and harder than anything else. Every step I’ve taken toward love; I now take two steps away. Every dollar I’ve spent on trains and planes and presents; I would spend twice as much to fly in the opposite direction. I have found love in Vancouver and New York and Florida and Montreal; I want to move to Oklahoma.
The rain beat against the car window. Not with malice, or with any real directive in mind. It did so because the rules of heat and pressure and gravity allowed it only certain routes—downward, into the window—and the rain did not have the courage to pursue another path. I looked at the rain and then past it, to the door of his apartment. There were only two things I wanted from this date—this first date. I wanted to kiss lightly, and to be kissed hard. I didn’t decide this before, but I wanted it. Want comes first, decision later.
When he climbed into my car, I put the keys in the car, and turned it on. I didn’t wait to say “hi,” or to hug, because I didn’t want to; I didn’t want to do any of those things, or the other things they would lead to—
—but he kissed me. And then I did. Fireworks, volcanos, someone kicking sand in my face at the beach, the cold wet of a sea anemone with its stinging cells filling my cheeks.
I didn’t know where to look. I looked straight ahead, seeing the windshield wipers whip the rain into a froth. I felt that I had just fallen into the car, as though I’d been on top of a high building, or a cloud. It was as though I’d never been on the ground before, like I’d spent the past ten years watching things happen from up above, but now I was facing them, eye level, unblinking.
Eventually, we would start fighting. There were periods of the relationship before that, but not enough to remember. The fights began with him against his parent; and then me against mine. Then he would argue with my friends; and then I would argue with my friends. Eventually I would fight with his parents, who would tell me to leave their apartment. The arguments were the same—somebody was spending too much money, seeing the wrong person, supporting the wrong cause, receiving the wrong grade in school. I fell asleep each night with bitter texts just sent from my fingers to everyone on my contact list and woke each morning to the same.
After some time, there were no longer people to fight with except each other. But, by then, we had gone too far, sunk too deep—we had too much momentum. Viciousness had become habit and tension had become comfort. When sending texts to start fights lost its originality, we fell to texting each other barbed remarks:
“i wish youd texted me”
“you couldn’t text me?!”
It had become competition: who could leave the meanest message with enough deniability such that we could each claim that we weren’t the difficult one, the toxic one, the one who should do the leaving. But neither of us would do that. We were happier miserable than alone.
It was at this point that we said “I love you.”
What else was there to say?
I had no friends who would say it to me, and no parents who I could say it to and mean it. Yet, in the absence of anything deserving love, I loved just as hard, just as desperately. I was committed now. I had fallen from the sky and was now on the earth. If I was to water a weed, then so be it. Better than to dry up on the soil.
I said “’I love you” first. It was during a fight. He told me his friends hated me, which was true. I asked him why he would pick them over me? Me, who loves him unconditionally.
He didn’t tell me that he loved me back. He told me that my friends hated me even more than his did.
I told myself it was close enough to love for me.
Weeks passed and more was lost: I had gone past the weeds and entered the earth. It was dark there and I could not see from where I had entered the loam. I was lost. It took two years and a thousand more fights to end things.
I realized my love was unconditional, and it was killing me.
I want conditions now, at least a few.