Life is caught between two polarized scenarios of loving someone more than they love you or having someone love you more than you love them. Often, those mid-breakup speeches might argue that these distant islands are equally painful, but they are not. In reality, being loved more than you love doesn’t feel like much at all. I suppose that’s the whole problem. It’s a numbness manifested into a lack of reciprocation, making it impossible to fathom deeper feelings for someone willing to pull their bodies by their elbows across the molten floor of hell for you. It’s a blockade, an obstacle in a path, if anything. It doesn’t hurt, it just stops. With no reason to climb over or dig under, you flee the scene, leaving the other person still in love but in a dazed state of disbelief. Perhaps you are running for a ladder or a shovel. Days, weeks, months will pass before that human that you could never comprehend the feelings of will awaken from the trance you left them in, and you will be no number or more sensitive because of it. You are a disconnection.
The other side of life is what has often driven me absolutely manic. The act of loving wholly and getting a near-complete fraction in return can often leave one feeling emptier than if they had not been loved at all. Writers mustn’t love those who are not writers, or so I have learned. I can write you an essay analyzing my own emotions into a perfect algorithm to make you understand. I can love you like a beginner poet loves the blue of the ocean, for my words are clear and easy to follow and they are not one to adventure too far out of reality. I am honest. I can characterize your eyes with gilded, golden frames and the earthy hues of a renaissance piece in need of new varnish. I can make you see that you are worthy of a velvet rope around your being to protect you from the greedy hands of those who just want to explore you but do not want to love you. I do not need a placard to understand you, for I have studied you myself to know. I love you for it all. I love you for the chips and the faded portions, and I love you for the parts still left in mint condition. There are bookshelves I could fill with words no one would want to read about the very curvature of your nose.
You don’t have the words to satiate my heart, but per chance you do not have the feelings either. It’s madness handwriting letters in calligraphy to receive a red, numbered bubble above a neon green speech bubble. I chalk it up on the words that crowd my cranium, the ones that force my hand to the pen that is fatally attracted to the paper. It’s a disease, you know — to feel so many words at once like an ant hill unloaded across your sweat-soaked skin, getting the itchiness of a million microscopic legs stuck onto your form. They won’t leave until I wash them away, and I wash them away in my letters to you.
Loving you more is better than not loving you at all, but it comes with its consequences. Many nights I glare at darkness so long that I begin to see the particles in the lack of light dive off of my ceiling like a tiny trapeze team. I sit and I imagine what it wouldbewillbeshouldbe like when you leave. Perhaps it will be through a red bubble or perhaps a conversation that has been vacuum-packed free of emotion. You’ll use the words that I know all too well, as you say, “We both knew this was fading away,” or, “We both know that this is not going to go anywhere else.” And you are right, because I did know, but I did not consent. I watched your love grow thinner and thinner like fog over the bay as the sun rises higher. I felt its touch grow softer and softer until the stagnant breeze of my Central Valley hometown hugged me tighter than you. Through it all, I recalled what it was like when I loved someone less. I recalled the disconnect and I recalled the numbness to their pain, and I saw it in your eyes that you felt the same.
Do not tell me that we both feel this way. I have felt both sides of this war and I’d choose your side day after day. Your tepid water love still hydrates and provides, though unsatisfying and anticlimactic. When it leaves, suddenly I am a boat left to float with no sail. I crash through the waves, flailing and soaked, as I watch you cruise smoothly on the latest model of a motorboat.
Cover Photo: "Automat" by genius Edward Hopper