I Don’t Love You, But I Stay Anyway

I carry 10-pound bricks on my chest every day and my back never stops burning. Your electric feather touch starts melting away every inch of my aches until you rub your shoulder mid-massage. Your face says it all; a fake wince. You’ve reached your capacity for empathy. You can’t go five minutes without being the center of attention. It’s been 10, so I’m certain there’s an asking price. 

I have a bad day, you tell me all the ways yours is worse. I’m in pain, so are you. I couldn’t even grieve my father without a scenario where you are, too. You and your father weren’t speaking, but that was a choice. I woke up one seemingly ordinary day and my father was gone. As in, I will never see him again. 

“We both lost our fathers.”

No, you didn’t. Mine is buried six feet under, and yours is in the next room. There’s no comparison, and I can’t believe I nearly let you convince me otherwise. 

My eyes are brimming with tears, but I say nothing. You probably think I agree because don’t I always lick your boots? Yet you never felt a thing when the tiger within me licked your skin. That is our relationship in a nutshell; you cause scarring, I don’t even leave a bruise.

So now it’s your turn to lay comfortably on the bed while I massage every knot out of your scales. Two minutes in, my hands cramp up. Touching you feels unnatural to my hands, like something I can’t bear to hold anymore.  

Yet I stay. It’s easier than admitting I held us hostage because I feared being alone. To me, being alone was like death. 

I made fighting for you, for us, my proclamation. The battle scars were worth everything. They were my badge of honor. When I got down on my knees and begged for forever, you gave me a soft “okay” and that was the only declaration I needed. 

I spent most of my twenties screaming at the top of my lungs that we only needed each other. The next 23 were on a roller coaster, and our only reprieve was the long distance. We just didn’t consciously know that yet. 

We lost years of our lives playing this game. So which is more like death when alone or together end in loss?

So tender, the burden that is you, inside me. My heart dropkicks, wanting a way out and away from you. Wanting will never be enough to break spells I cast on us, so I keep waiting for divine intervention. Better her than me. I refuse to be in charge of our fate. Waiting and wanting are sisters I join hands with, but I can’t pretend they serve me anymore. I lose more and more of myself each time I dress up indifference as love. 

Let’s call it what it is—love for you doesn’t live in me anymore. 

My promise to love you forever was never with good intentions, and now I stumble on every lie. I settled for what I had. I took an oath on broken glass. I convinced myself it wasn’t an illusion to believe two souls joined in convenience weren’t allowed to desire more for themselves.

I wake up telling myself this will be the day I stop sleeping on our grave. Sometimes I grieve you, me, us, who we could’ve been together, who we could’ve been separately. Other times I dream of a life without you; the fresh air, wildflowers in my hair. Devouring my freedom under the bluest of skies. I am wholly blinded by the sun. But when I step out the door, I collapse into my breath. One foot is already out, so it shouldn’t be this tragic. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be. 

I fiddle with my diamond, trying to force it to stay on my finger. It fits loosely, like it’s loosening its grip on me. Wishing I never met you used to feel dangerous, but is it too dangerous to say that I wish you didn’t exist?