I’m a fraud. My emotions are just another con. They’re conning her and they’re certainly conning me. The words “I love you” roll off my tongue and the pollution in my lungs comes rushing out as I exhale. If she’s standing close enough she’ll breathe it in and become infected. Every time she coughs, I think it’s me that’s killing her. I say things like, “I can do this. I can be the man she needs. I can give her the life she deserves.” These thoughts last for as long as they last. And then the con grows shaky before collapsing under its own weight.
If I can keep things together for another month or two – maybe a year – I can figure out what’s wrong with me. I can fix myself and be ready to find what I’m looking for in my next relationship. So, I hold on long after the relationship has ended. My grip is tightest when we’re in that stage where we’re both building up the courage to walk away.
I use “I love you” in place for the other things I need to say. I’m not sure if I’ve ever said, “I need help.” I don’t know if I’ve uttered “I’m terrified to be alone.” I think I say them inside my head. In the space between my brain and mouth, that fear turns into anger and depression. It turns into frustration. I used to think she was the cure to my worst symptoms. The disease is still within me. It’s building strength. It’s festering. It’s rotting me from the inside out. Maybe if I could just say “I’m dying,” instead of “I love you.” we could get better together. “I’m not well.” Would those words make her want to stay? Would I want her to stay after I said them?
It’s too much to ask her to be patient for a thing that will likely never come. It’s unfair to expect kindness when all I am is unkind. I am unkind to myself and that spills over on to her. If she stays I’ll suckle the hope out of her. I’ll drain her of everything that is good. I won’t be able to look her in the eye after what I’ve done. If I let her waste all her love on me the guilt will be suffocating.
Who will love me? Who will fight by my side after I’ve disappeared? Who is willing to endure my skinny love without a guarantee there could ever be more?