My Hidden Lives // Prose

117. I won’t say it if you won’t say it first

(the title was shamelessly lifted from The Cure)

27 03 2012

„Have you fallen in love with me yet?“ Jim asks over tea one very ordinary morning, beginning of November, three months since we’ve met. I look at him crossly from behind my book.

„That’s a heavy subject to broach on an empty stomach, wouldn’t you say?“

„It’s a simple question, Frank. A simple answer will suffice.“

Joking and jibing is something I do well, something Jim and I do well. We’ve already settled into our pattern of negotiating emotional intimacy by saying honest thoughts out loud in mocking tones. The answer might be simple, but choosing the right intonation for the word is not. It will take time for me to re-learn how to pronounce l-o-v-e, without irony.

„Have you fallen in love with me?“

„You’re asking me to say it first? Really?“

„M-hm.“

Jim is, as always, amused to see my squirm.

 „Are you afraid of something?“

„I don’t know, I mean, no, but… would you?“

„Would I what?“

 „…say it first?“

Keeping my eyes firmly locked on the table, I hear his voice echo as if from a different galaxy: one where people are self-assured and uncomplicated, where they make things to last, or start relationships composed of daily rituals (drinking tea and coffee together, going to a movie, bickering about bathroom-time in the morning).

Being in love with someone, for Jim,  being in love with me: it isn’t a vague search for metaphysical meaning or the artistic act of yearning for an ideal, unattainable only because you want it to be. I’ve been loved like that before, and it feels more like violence than tenderness,  more like a stab in the gut than a caress.

When Jim says he’s fallen in love with me, his words are revealing, rather than obscuring, the space between us. There’s no caveat, no small print underneath his steady voice.

„Happy now?“ he asks.

„Yeah. Give me a second.“

„Sure.“

I reach for my laptop and type up a short, impromptu text about how I’ve fallen in love with him as well, but have some issues regarding the pronunciation of the words it takes to get this point across. Turn the laptop over so he can read it while I impatiently fiddle with my right sleeve.

„Understood?“

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