We didn’t fall far enough to call it love before we had fallen out of it, but there’s no question: we certainly fell. It was a jerky, sudden, almost fun but always ridiculous kind of falling, this quick double tumble; we didn’t know what to call it. We discussed it at length, sure --to be emotionally responsible and everything-- but we never came up with a good name, just a list of things that it was like: like using empty cans connected tenuously by yarn as a telephone. Like eating candy because it used to be our favorite thing but then, with the vibrant, vacant wrappers strewn across the floor, we realize too late we don’t feel that way anymore. Like brother and sister puppies in a basket on the rapids of a river, one dragging the other back into the safety of damp, woven reeds, milk teeth bared down on floppy ear, but then accidentally kicking its sibling out again in a scrambled effort to avoid drowning. But we can’t have this sibling talk, this sibling comparison, this notion of soul siblings anymore because “things are different.” We changed them. We can agree that it was stupid, but maybe not about who was stupider. We change our minds all the time. We see each other on the bridge, or in the cafeteria, and turn away. And we do agree that we both really need the support we used to get, to hold each other, to hold each other up, but we can’t hold hands or walk with arms linked in public anymore. The truth is we loved long before that unfortunate stumble. The issue at hand is whether now we love enough, or love too much but not in the right way, or not in a way that’s healthy, or not in a way that the other can receive.
We agree that we should talk, but it’s like the cans tied together with string. The words and their many meanings are difficult to receive and sort. It’s all garbled. Who would know that “I still value you and think you’re really attractive” means “I don’t know what I would do without you”? Though it seems obvious that everyone should know by now that “I hate you,” usually means, “I hate that the person I trusted most is making me feel this way,” the message doesn’t always come through with tone intact. We have found at least one helpful clue. It turns out that “I hate you,” can also mean, “I still love you, but it’s hurting me. I still love you, but I don’t know how to.” Maybe that’s not as good as a declaration of deeply felt affection that sheds letters like silken robes to reveal the love-meaning beneath to the listener with ease, but honey, it was never going to be easy. No meanings will open so gently —nothing will open so gently. From here on out it’s a terribly tense balancing act and always this looming fear of falling. We only have to agree on one thing: that being a, “we,” whatever kind, is worth it.