That Magical Number

July 23, 2008
It’s funny how words begin to lose all meaning if you say them enough. I like to think that that’s why he stopped saying it. I like to believe that if he kept saying it, I wouldn’t remember what it meant, that he just needed to say it one more time, three more times, seventeen more times – some magical number that would make me not care anymore. Some number that would make me grateful that he stopped saying it. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it’s what I like to think.

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you… And I try it out. But no matter how many times I say it, it’s still true. It hasn’t lost meaning yet. It hasn’t made me hate you.

Do you remember the day we met? I’m sure you do. Me, scoffing at all the movies on the shelf, and you, with your briskness. The way you just walked in and picked the movies you wanted off the shelf. You had a list in your pocket. I always loved how organized you were. And you came up to me and asked if I needed a recommendation. As if we were old friends. As if you worked there. As if I cared what you thought.

And funnily enough, I said “Sure! Why not?” So you gave me the title of a foreign film. A film with subtitles. A film entirely unlike what I had in mind. And like the poseur I am, I said, “Oh, yeah, I saw that one already. Isn’t that one chick a great actor?”

And you believed me. You just smiled and nodded and reminisced about the beautiful South American location. “I want to go there someday,” you said. “I want to breathe that air, meet those people, eat that food.”

“Well, maybe I’ll watch it again,” I said. “You know, because it was a pretty good movie.” And even as I said it, I was kicking myself.

You told me that you had it in your hand. You wanted to study the plot or something. I told you that it’s alright, I’ll get something else.

You told me that could I come over and watch it with you. You know, since I love it so much. I said okay, because you were cute. You’re still cute. But you’re more than that now. You’re a work of art.

And I know a lot of people say that when someone is ugly. When someone’s beauty is only on the inside, or some malarkey like that. But with you, you’re different. You’re so complex sometimes. You really are a work of art.

So I went to your house. I sat on your couch and watched you scribble notes to yourself about plot and structure and whatever else went on in your mind. I couldn’t concentrate on the picture. I watched you from the corner of my eye – how enthusiastic you were, how totally focused you were, how vibrant you were. I guess it was one of your high times. You laughed real loud, cried a little, even groaned in sympathy during the violent parts. At the end, you sighed and flopped back on the couch, and closed your eyes. Satisfied.

I got up, grabbed my stuff, was quietly heading out the door, when you said, “Hey.” I looked at you, your eyes still closed. “Don’t go,” you said.

And since you asked me to, how could I not stay? I never was good at saying no.

I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up living together. I never understood how it happened. I think I just stayed and stayed and never went home. I mean, I did – for a day or two, here and there. I left. And brought my stuff over, piece by piece.

We watched a foreign film every day. I didn’t know there were that many to watch. French movies, Korean movies, Bollywood movies. You liked all of them. You would sit and just think about them for hours and hours. I never thought about anything for hours.

Then one day, everything changed. Remember that? You went from the most energetic person I ever met to the most lethargic. Even more so than me. You would watch the movies still, but you’d leave halfway through to go eat, or read, or whatever else you did. You’d ask me later how it ended, and I’d make something up. I got the feeling that you were on to me. That you knew that I wasn’t just quiet, but pretty empty. Pretty shallow. Pretty, but not much else.

But you never called me on it. You never finished the movies. You never played my games.

Then one day, and I’m sure you remember this, you told me you were leaving. The apartment was mine, you were taking off.

I asked where you were going. You told me, “Brazil.” I knew it was a lie. You knew it was a lie. But how was that different than any other lie?

You grabbed your backpack and headed for the door.

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t go,” I said.

You turned away from me and left anyway.

Maybe my words lost meaning to you. Maybe you thought I didn’t mean it when I said ‘I love you’. What if I said it that magical number of times?

Or maybe it really was a lie.

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