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What are we doing to each other? Because I know that I am doing to him exactly what he is doing to me. We are sometimes so happy, and never in our lives have we known more unhappiness. It’s as if we were working together on the same statue, cutting it out of each other’s misery. But I don’t even know the design.
Love. I’m not capable of it, can’t even approach it from the side, let alone head-on. Nor am I alone in this—everyone is like this, the liars. Singing songs and painting pictures and telling each other stories about love and its mysteries and its marvelous properties, myths to keep morale up—maybe one day it’ll materialize. But I can say it ten times a day, a hundred times, “I love you,” to anyone and anything, to a woman, to a pair of pruning shears. I’ve said it without meaning it at all, taken love’s name in vain and gone dismally unpunished. Love will never be real, or if it is, it has no power. No power. There’s only covetousness, and if what we covet can’t be won with gentle words—and often it can’t—then there is force.
When he says
He doesn’t love you anymore,
Roll your shoulders back
And look him in the eye
Even when it feels like your ribs
Are breaking inward, like spider legs.
When he digs up old aches
That he swore he forgave you for,
And ask him why he didn’t leave you sooner.
Ignore the way the words feel like sandpaper
Running all the way up your throat to your mouth.
When he blames you
For mistakes that wear his face,
Do not scream.
Do not cry.
Tell him that there are boys
Who would be proud to say they’d loved you.
Tell him that in two years
You won’t even remember his name
And don’t let him see the way you can taste your own lie.
When he leaves
Ignore the howling in your blood
And do not get up after him.
Not even to lock the door.
Do not, do not
Smell his shirts when you box them up
To give them back.
Swear off dating when you realize
You’re chasing ghosts that wear his smile.
It’s okay to cry over him.
It’s even okay to forgive him.
But do not go back to him.
If he did not know how to love you the first time,
He won’t know how to do it the next.
When I walk in,
men buy me drinks before I even reach the bar.
They fall in love with me after one night,
even if we never touch.
I tell you I’ve got this shit down to a science.
They sweat with my memory,
alone in cheap rooms they listen
to moans through the wall
and wonder if that’s me,
letting out a scream as the train whines by.
But I’m already two states away, lying with a boy
I let drink rain from the pulse at my throat.
No one leaves me, I’m the one that chooses.
I show up like money on the sidewalk.
Listen, baby. Those are my high heels dangling from the
I’m the crow flapping down,
that’s my back slip
you catch sight of when the pain
twists into you so deep
you have to close your eyes and weep like a goddamned