The Smallest Gesture

Love, sometimes: like sending myself in the mail, naked and bulky. And when I arrive, if the reaction disappoints, no amending, no editing will fix me. I crumple and I burn with shame. Even if it was an honest misunderstanding. Forget it! Just forget it! It didn’t mean anything! That’s a lie. It means everything. But my fear, long ago planted in the soles of my feet, shoots up and takes over, and it wants to burn everything to the ground. It wants billowing black smoke and bare earth. It needs me to hide again.

Love scares me so deeply that sometimes I throw myself into the mailbox and mentally jump ahead to such a time as when the recipient will have forgotten about me, when I am collecting dust in a far corner of their memory, and I no longer have to carry the burden of loving them because they’ve let it all drain out, and it’s one less thing I have to fear.

Love burns so fiercely within me that sometimes I can’t sit too close to the person I love because I might accidentally fold right into them, merge with them, understand the ticking of their heart and the whispers in the swishing of their blood, and taste the inside of their mouth, become the dirt from the garden that’s under their nails. If this happened they would despise me. They would say She lacks boundaries or We’re not that close or She’s really weird. And I would combust, immediately and completely, at such a fast and high temperature as to disappear altogether.

Love is the only reason I breathe. It’s my deep sea diver’s helmet, it’s my astronaut gear. I send it out to my people, secretly, great big bubbles of it, every day, and wonder if they can feel it. I hope they can. I hope it makes them stronger and bolder while keeping them safer.

Love is what broke my heart from the very beginning. I offered my fierce, hot, sweet, childish love up without even thinking–this is me, I am yours–and met refusal.

I’ll try that again, I thought.
I’ll try that again, I thought.
Again.
Again.
I know a different way, I thought.
A different way.
How about like this?
Again.
Try it again.
Try it again.

It’s a neat trick to pull. It’s a neat trick, to pull at the poppet’s strings. Marvel at the things she can do. Show the world the poppet and her ingenuity. The poppet is yours. Isn’t she brilliant? She is yours. The poppet is yours. You made her. She belongs to you.

Love is the thing I grew to confuse with lesser things, to ask from lesser beings, to take on the sly.

Love me, I said to the powerful man more than twice my age.
Love me, I said to the man who was married.
Love me, I said to the almost-rapist.

Love me, I said to the smallest gesture, and blew it up so it filled the sky.

Eventually it becomes clear that if someone loves you they aren’t worthy of your love. Eventually you realize that not-love is more important than love. But your heart keeps beating and love keeps bubbling up despite yourself.
Where does it come from? And why?

You can’t keep doing this.

You break yourself down and begin again.

Love is what I am made of. Love scares the shit out of me. Love is the thing that keeps me going. Love is what keeps the world spinning on its axis. Love is why I get out of bed. Love breaks my heart over and over again and I can’t stand it. I wish I didn’t love. I wish I couldn’t love. Love is the reason I exist.

I want to gather up all the love I feel for you and wrap you in it so you’re never cold.

I want to turn myself inside out so that you’ll see I mean it.

I want you never to doubt that you are loved beyond belief and beyond measure.

I want you to know this.