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She caught the bluff at his lips, but she got caught in his lips.
To her, he was forged. His voice; a conglomerate replica of the many others she’s heard before. His face was a hodge-podge of the flaws she’s seen before: the too small nose paired with too big eyes paired with too average ears. His words were pieced together from the same newspaper articles she’d read every morning with her cup of coffee.
“So passé”, she would say about him. “I’ve seen it all before.”
“So passé”, she would say to him. “You’re nothing new, nothing special.”
She’d tell him this while fingering through his too brown hair, while counting his too many freckles, while slipping through his too long arms. She’d tell him this over and over again, because she caught the bluff; the stale taste of “I don’t love you” was unmistakable. She’d tell him this over and over again until they fell into their roles, actors acting out the same scene repeatedly until their lines sunk in.
“You’re nothing new, nothing special.” She picks at lint caught in his hair, gleams at the highlights brightened by the sun.
“I know.” He takes her small hand, touches them to his face.
“Nothing special at all, I’ve seen you a hundred times in my head.” She grazes her nails against his skin, against his neck; drawing circles on his face to match the circles in the sky.
“You’ve said that a hundred times in my head.”
“I know.” He touches his lips to hers. “I love you.”
He decided one day he liked the sound of her voice. It was on a street corner, while the rain was crashing down and the cars on the streets were screaming at each other. He took her wrist and pressed his too small nose near her ear.
“I love your voice, say my name.” His own sent chills down the back of her neck.
“Ross.” She felt his smile as it pushed on her hair. “It’s nothing special. Your name.”
“I know, you just say it so well though.”
He always knew the right words to say. The right words to make her wince, the right words she knew he practiced over and over with so many others.
He took her arm and pulled her away from the frantic scene, and onto the next stage.
He’d learn to love her eyes, her hair, the bend of her arm, the crevice in her neck, her bony wrists. He said he loved the way she got angry, the way she got scared, how her eyes would light up, how they would fade back.
“I love you, I love you, I love you.”
She knew it was a lie because he’d repeat it over and over. I love you while dancing, I love you while driving, I love you while falling asleep next to her side, I love you now, I love you tomorrow, and I love you for however long. It was as if he was saying it over and over to find in time, the quality of honesty in his voice. He said I love you in hopes he would someday mean it. But until then, he was playing a bluff.
He managed drilled those three words into her head. As he was trying to find the meaning in them, she lost the meaning. Having heard it over and over, they turned into simple words. I love you was expected.
She never said it though, as she had caught his bluff from the beginning; she wouldn’t fall for him. In a span of three years her absence of love and his show of it would tug at the bond that kept them together. Each repetition of “I love you” would break down what kept them together. He didn’t know the poison of his words.
And one day she had heard them too many times; he never found the honesty. She had heard them too many times; she never found the honesty in her. No matter how many times “I love you, I love you, I love you”, she could not respond with anything more than “I know.” They broke their ties that day, and she ran away from him with a speed and to a distance that scared them both.
It took the quiet of both rain and night to illuminate his mind. His “I love you” just echoed back in her head as “I don’t love you.” And with that realization he had also learned that every look was a bluff, every kiss was a bluff; every touch was a bluff; broken attempts to deceive him of a love she never had. Their three years became strung together events of deception, moments of a faked love in order to keep him in her arms. The honesty he found in her “You’re nothing special” was just a masked attempt to hide the dishonesty in her actions.
He finally caught her bluff.