Thank You For Showing Me What Love Is Not

You said you wanted us to write our own vows.

Don’t you want everyone to hear how much we love each other? It will be special if we write them ourselves. My neck started to sweat and I wiped the clamminess from my hands onto your jeans. Yeah, it will be much more special that way.

We weren’t even engaged.

I’ve picked out our wedding song. “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole. It was my grandparents’ song. I asked you to sing it to me, but you didn’t know the words.

I could think of many other songs—ones that we both knew the words to. Lyrics that you would end your letters with—the ones you sent from Iraq. Something from Paramore or Secondhand Serenade that would be more personal, but that’s not what you were about.

You talked about a wedding with no intent of marriage. You sent me links to music videos from halfway across the world instead of using your own words. I miss your face was about as personal as it got. You used the romantic slang of a 1950s gangster, creating a faux-romanticism that confused me. I’m sweet on you.

But isn’t it ironic that after all that, you wanted me to write my own vows?

Well, here they are:

I want to thank you for being a part of my life. You were perfect for me then. I was a lonely college girl, partying until 4 a.m. You were my excuse not to bump and grind with strangers in the night, producing awkward mornings and potential I’m-late texts.

It was sweet that you gave me your dog tags to keep me company, even though they’re gone now. I buried them. Dug a hole with my bare hands, threw them into an unmarked grave. Maybe someday someone will find them and wonder about their origin. They’ll probably make you a hero because they don’t know any better.

It was a blessing that night you didn’t answer your phone, though I’ve always wondered who you were with when you got my voicemail telling you to go to Hell. Probably with her, bumping and grinding into the night. I was never your excuse and that’s why I’m here—writing vows into the void.

So thank you for showing me what love is not.