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You know, he says, you’re so beautiful. I smile at him, with our faces so close together on the same pillow, because he makes me happy when he tells me these things that I can’t always tell myself. I like you too, I say. No really, you are. I think you’re gorgeous. Thank you, I whisper. I think that I might be falling in love with him when he looks into my eyes like that. People don’t look into my eyes; they don’t want to see what is there behind them in my past. But he looks and looks and drinks in my soul like he was dying of thirst.
When his hand pushes back my hair I don’t object. He rests it there for a moment, so warm on my face that I don’t want him ever to move. His hand says everything to me, and I sigh. What is it, he asks. Are you sure you’re ok? Yes, with you here. He looks at me for a moment. I won’t leave tonight, he says into my ear real quiet. I won’t leave ever.
We just look at each other some more as if that’s all we are capable of, even though it’s the opposite because it isn’t bodies that have been broken in this bed. I watch his face flicker with something, so I ask him what he’s thinking. And as that familiar, crooked line between his eyebrows appears I know he is building a response in his head and I realize that I desperately want to know what he’s thinking without the editing. I tell him to just spit it out and he does.
I just don’t know about you sometimes, he says. I love you and love you and love you. More than anything I know, I love you. But there’s days that I don’t know if I can give you what you need. Because I see it sometimes, in your eyes, that you’re hurting still. And I try to fix that hurt but I don’t know what it is you need and I worry it’s not me. His face is so sincere it hurts me to watch it. I don’t think I’m your Band-Aid, he finally says.
I begin to cry. You’re not breaking up with me, are you? I don’t know, he sighs. I don’t want to, that’s for sure. I love you. But you’re never going to love me as much, are you? And that’s not what either of us needs.
I touch his chest hesitantly with the tips of my fingers. I stare at them, my fingers on his chest, the light contact. He breathes in slowly and I can feel it as he struggles to keep his breath from shaking. His hand finds mine and takes it in his own, away from his heart. I can see what’s coming, and all of the sudden I realize I’m not ready to let him go. That somewhere along the line, I began to love him. That I never told him that.
You promised, I say. You promised you wouldn’t leave.
He says nothing.
You promised, I say again. I hold onto this, hoping that perhaps this pillow-talk promise will be strong enough to keep us together.
I think, he says gently, I don’t think I’m the one leaving. I think you already left. He sits up with these words, like they have given his spine strength.
I love you, he says. He watches me with strangely bright eyes.
You promised, I whisper.
He looks away then, and I feel it in my gut that I said something wrong. That’s the problem, he murmurs, not to me but to the empty room. That’s the problem.
I can see that I am hurting him somehow, keeping him here. I don’t want that and I touch his arm. It hurts you, staying here. He just looks at me. Then go, I say a bit louder. Go. If loving me hurts you, just go.
It’s not like that, I-
He gets up and pulls on his shirt.
He shoves his feet into his sneakers.
He begins walking to the door.
He shuts the door behind him.
I scream, realizing he is actually leaving. I fall off the bed and stumble over to the door, looking down the hallway for him. He’s at the end, almost gone, and I yell at his figure.
I love you! Oh, god, I love you!
He pauses. But it was too late; I was too late. Because I see him turn the corner, go down the stairs, walk out of my building, and never come back.