Love like you mean it.
His words echo in the half-empty apartment. Even with all the kettles and pots clanging in the evenings, his words remain untouched. It is not just his words that haunt the house but his face. He keeps standing by the door asking you to let him in and you, with a stubborn smirk refuses. How do you remember that moment? Like after he left and you called up his mom and you told her you couldn't let him in. How do you remember it in the night when you stretch out your hands to touch him and coming up short with a handful of cold bedsheets?
Your mother and his mother and all the women you still trust after all these months enquire about him. They ask you about your love for him and you tell them you are fine, adding -because you're tired of explaining - that you think you'll both be better off apart. To your mother who still calls you for Easter and asks about him, you say, "I want everything and he is not." And to his mother who still calls you daughter, you say, "I don't think we'll be happy together."
It so happens that it's easier to believe you wanted his happiness so that you can wake up in the morning and order soup and bread and not wonder how he is. He'll be in another town in an office with wealthy men and you'll be here alone because it doesn't hurt if you don't believe it to be real. That's what you tell his father when he takes you to the pub and you drink until you get drunk.
You remember days and days when he would laugh and tell you, "I love your eyes."
"Why?" You used to ask.
"It's bright like silver trains, pulling me in like a bar fight."
How do you react when that memory pulls you in and drags you like your grandmother's ring? You stand in the shower and think about him and start to cry because you know you cannot call and ask him, "How are you, Jack?"
Were he to reply to you with, "I'm fine, Katelyn. Did you call? Should I come back?" And you think of what to say for a minute, wouldn't you feel the need to say to him, "You were nearly everything I wanted. But not everything."
After that kiss you weren't supposed to see, you are still not able to forgive and when he threw stones at your window, begged you to open the door, implored you to speak, you knew just one fact and it was something you would tell him in the last days: How do you love someone who leaves you cold?
To forgive, you must tread the path where others have fallen outstretched in an open field. It will take enough courage; not the type you exhibit in a hall filled with men in outstanding tuxedos or the type you pretend to have while dancing in the shower. You have lied to a lot of persons in your life and the ones who have since left. By lying, you threw yourself away from the hurt but the emptiness that moves within your soul is restless so for once, you want to hope you can forgive yourself for believing in life after death.
When he wrapped you in wool in winter and played your guitar while you sang with him, you really felt happy. For then you weren't bothered about life and loneliness nor were you intrigued by stray cats and fluorescent lights. Now you are free like the bird in the sky and the sand in the sea but captured still by careless reasoning.
When he prepared pasta and you said it was delicious, it meant that you existed for life and love and everything beneath. It meant that when his mother touched your cheeks and chuckled lightly, you felt like family enough to change your last name on Facebook to that of his.
How do you prepare yourself for that memory? Like walking back home from work and feeling insecure about things out of reach. Remember this then. When he loved you and you loved him and every bonfire smoke, you did not feel insecure. It was only after the hug you weren't supposed to see that you felt insecure about your weight and your eyes and you cried and called your mother. You told her about Todd in high school and how you loved him and he didn't. And about James from college. And Luke.
Love like you mean it.
In the end, you are left with words that run through your mind even with the anti-depressant pills choked into your skin. You grow to understand your mind but not your heart and although you want to, you know you can't stop yourself from wondering about the what-ifs and maybe's. Like what if you had sat at home and not gone to his apartment. You wouldn't have seen him with the blonde girl and you wouldn't have fallen silent like an awkward teenager.
How do you begin this? You did not talk and yet you were inclined to speak to him, to tear out words from the tip of your tongue. You wanted to laugh at how stupid that made you but you did not. Maybe it was because you were scared of hearing the jarring sound of your voice escaping from your closed lips. You shut your eyes to feel the darkness but it was the light you saw, a light so bright it blinded you.
You ache for a form of closure but what is this you are getting? Fear? You always wondered if you had known him before, in a place that you could go without fear. Think about the first time he smiled at you. Hope, like an army of fireflies, charged into you and you loved and loved until the sex you shouldn't have seen.
Last July he said to you, " You're solid as a rock."
It was said to you as you painted him and you smiled until you couldn't anymore because you loved him.
Last August, you said to him, "How much do you love me?"
You are still waiting for your reply. He was too drunk to answer and in the morning, you didn't ask again. You could keep your question for the next guy who will come into your life to toil and stay.
You want to call him, finally. You want him to explain why he did what he did but you don't want him to tell you he had loved you until he hadn't. You watch the lazy sun go down and then you dial his number. It doesn't ring. You cannot hear his voice. Your mother calls you and tells you he is back and excited, you tell her you don't care until your doorbell rings and he stands there in the same manner he had months ago when his lips moved with the words: love like you mean it.
You let him in. He sits on your sofa. You offer him nothing but a question, "Why?"
"Sometimes holding on can be frightening. I was scared."
"What do you mean?"
"Katelyn, you were the lantern in my path that guided me home. But once I feared to stay, I feared following the path. Much like the ocean, I wanted to be the one who pulled you in. But once I discovered I was pulling myself in too, I fled the lighthouse."
"Don't make this simple."
"I love you. It was a rash mistake, a fit of lust."
You let him say that and apologize and then you tell him to leave your house because the idea that he found cheating on you to be a fit of lust meant it could happen again. In another time and place, he could do it again and he would tell you about the sea and sand. The next day, he throws stones at your window, implores you to give him a chance. You pull your door open for him and go back to sleep. In your calming sleep, you hear his words again: love like you mean it.
When you wake up, you find him still seated, still staring at the photographs of Italy on the wall. You do not offer him anything more than, "Why did you come back?"
"To see you. To love you again. To ask for forgiveness."
Your mother rings you up now. She wants to see you. You ask her to come to the apartment and when you hang up, you give him whiskey. That's when you wait for her to come, to tell you to forgive him and take him back just like she did your father. You wait because you want to kiss him hard; wait until your mother comes to hold you, and tell him he should feel lucky.
Then, you wait for her to tell you to love like you mean it.