It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the sound I heard when I was 9 and my father slammed the front door so hard behind him I swear to god it shook the whole house. For the next 3 years I watched my mother break her teeth on vodka bottles. I think she stopped breathing when he left. I think part of her died. I think he took her heart with him when he walked out. Her chest is empty, just a shattered mess or cracked ribs and depression pills.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s all the blood in the sink. It’s the night that I spent 12 hours in the emergency room waiting to see if my sister was going to be okay, after the boy she loved, told her he didn’t love her anymore. It’s the crying, and the fluorescent lights, and white sneakers and pale faces and shaky breaths and blood. So much blood.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the time that I had to stay up for two days straight with my best friend while she cried and shrieked and threw up on my bedroom floor because her boyfriend fucked his ex. I swear to god she still has tear streaks stained onto her cheeks. I think when you love someone, it never really goes away.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the six weeks we had a substitute in English because our teacher was getting divorced and couldn’t handle getting out of bed. When she came back was smiling. But her hands shook so hard when she held her coffee, you could see that something was broken inside. And sometimes when things break, you can’t fix them. Nothing ever goes back to how it was. I got an A in English that year. I think her head was always spinning too hard to read any essays.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that I do.
Delete her number.
Stop ringing her. Stop messaging her. Stop making excuses to see her, to drop by her place.
Erase her name from memory. Remove yourself from her life, more completely than you would like but as completely as she deserves. Move on, so that you can allow her to also move on. When you close your eyes, you don’t get to see her face. Not anymore. You don’t get to think about her lips, the warm glow of her skin when she rests next to you, or how she squeezes your hand in her sleep. You are not allowed to remember the smell of her perfume, that she only drinks mint tea (with two dollops of honey), or that she loves you.
She loves you.
She has been in love with you for too long.
So, forget how she says your name. Forget how she calls your name. Forget how she screams your name. Forget that time you got sick and she stayed up with you all night, letting you lay your head in her lap and holding a cold compress to your forehead. Forget how her hair feels in your fingers. Forget how she looks in your sweatshirts.
Know only that she existed at one point in your life, but relinquish all hope that she could exist at another point — sometime in the future that you are unwilling to specify because you don’t know what you want. Yet. It is not fair for you to swoop in and out of her life as you choose. It is not fair for you to say that you are satisfied with “things as they are” and you will have time to “figure it out” later. Let her stop investing emotionally in you. Let her pour that love and care into the people who deserve her.
Don’t tell her that you think about her all the time. Don’t tell her that it bothers you to hear about her with other people, but that you’re willing to understand as long as she likes you more than them. Don’t tell her that this isn’t the right moment but that there will be a right moment. There is not going to be a right moment. She shouldn’t have to wait for the right moment.
Don’t tell her that you can’t handle ultimatums, that you don’t like the idea of finally adding finality to your relationship — whatever still remains of it.
What you are telling her is that you want to keep her on as an option, that you are taking her for granted, that you want to know she will be there, that you can depend on her at the end of the day. When you find that no one else has stuck around or that those who have are less interesting, less thoughtful, or less doggedly loyal to you.
Doggedly loyal to you.
That is what she has been to you, for you almost as long as you have known her: a constant emotional crutch, the guarantee of stability, a safety net while you reachvout to grasp objects that sparkle and shine far greater than she does. All that glitters is not gold, haven’t you heard?
She is fire. You are ice, and you are afraid that her slow burn will smolder your cool, hard demeanor. That’s what has driven your decisions, your actions all along: fear. You are a coward. You are a hypocrite. You are terrified to let her go, but you are afraid she is too good for you, that she could drive you wild, that you would choke on her flames. That she is too much for you to handle right now.
But if you choose not to love her now, you can’t choose to love her later.