We sat in your room. You kissed me by the blue light of your computer screen.
“I love you,” you said.
“That’s not possible: I don’t love you,” I said.
I don’t remember when you told me you loved me. You said it so many times, it stopped meaning anything.
“Why don’t you want me to be your boyfriend?” you asked.
“I’m going to Pittsburgh in August.”
“I could go with.”
“You have a life here.”
“But, I love you.”
We walked through Panther Hollow, hand in hand. It was dark. We’d started playing Capture the Flag at twilight, and now we could barely see in front of us. We helped each other up the creek bed. I don’t remember what we were talking about.
“I love you,” you said. It snuck out. You looked at it, desperation in your eyes, as though by somehow wishing it enough, you could take it back. You looked at me hopelessly. “I didn’t–I do, but. I…”
I choked on the words, wanting to say them back, and not knowing how.
“I love you,” you said without looking at me.
“That’s just something people say after sex,” I said without looking at you.
We sat on the porch. Painfully drunk. I knew later you’d be vomiting. I knew I would get you a glass of water and you would down it in one go. I knew you would pass out next to me and throw an arm over my torso in the middle of the night. I knew as soon as you woke up in the morning, you’d pull it back and pretend nothing had ever happened. We’d done this before.
I smoked a cigarette, knowing it would be one of my last. My mouth tasted like watermelon jolly ranchers. You took my cigarette and had a drag. You put it back in my mouth.
“You know, I–” you said.
“I know,” I said, cutting you off. You wouldn’t remember it in the morning. It would hurt too much to hear you say it.
I dared you to put the cigarette out on my arm. You did.
After three months, I knew I had to do it. I didn’t know what to say. I tried the words in my head. I knew how you felt; I knew what you would say. I stood in front of the mirror and practiced, like they tell you to do before a speech.
The entire trip I tried to find the right time, but I never did. The words, again and again, died on my lips.
Before I’d even gone to the airport, I mailed you a postcard that said it all. You were annoyed that your roommate knew before you did.
Even in confessions, we were separated by an impossible distance.
The flight made me stiff, and the air and adrenaline kept me running. We had to be quiet, and there was a lot to say. We lay on the floor, surrounded by darkness and invisible obstacles and the defining features of our relationship: the heat on your skin, your voice in my ear, your featureless silhouette in the night.
“I told him that I think I love you,” you said.
“I love you,” I said. You crushed your mouth into mine and I forgot where I ended.