Sunset is no metaphor for beginning, but that island, that summer, was all they ever were. When she refused to wash her hair for fear of disturbing the smell of the sea locked in its burgeoning dreadlocked strands; when her skin was browned by the sun and softened by sand. He traced love with his toe and they shared smiles both bittersweet and laced with secrets.
"I’m afraid I don’t love you," she said.
"Give it time," he said.
And so she did. They did. They leaned against the pylons of the pier and drifted off and away. They loved as the tide came in and the ocean hissed beneath them. They were young and they were trouble and they knew nothing—but nothing exists outside of the eyes of lovers locked in the latent lumination of souls glowing for each other. They knew it would end, as everything this perfect must.
Beauty only exists on fringes, where the fabric of focus is frayed and colors are grayed—where you’re licked back to life by the metallic taste of fear-tipped tongues.
Perfection doesn’t lie in lack of balance or failure of patience; but then, love is never perfect. Sometimes, love tastes like salt water. Sometimes, love feels like the split ends of sun-dried sandy hair. But usually, it feels like jumping head first. Usually, it lives in moments that run away and become memories, gaping and gawping into the night. It may live on in songs and starshine, but it was never really there.
She knew all of that when she said, “Don’t fall in love with me.”
"Too late," he said, although he knew all of that too.
In my mind, there will never be a miscarriage of this moment. I have wrapped words around it and I will never let it go. I only lived it once, but i’ve read it a thousand times.
And I read it still.
"You don’t love me anymore."
She thought of his words, the phrasing. He was never one to use them except to express his exact intent. He could’ve asked “don’t you love me anymore?” but he didn’t. He could’ve left the “anymore” bit off, implying that she’d never loved him at all, but they both knew that implication was false and would only have started a long semantic battle of attrition. It was a statement, but one he needed confirmed. A hypothesis.
"Did you even hear me?"
Even. “I did.” Curious someone had long ago decided time was something to commoditize. It all comes from believing our supply is limited and we’ll never have enough of it. Reasons for living are implied. The best years are finite. “You know I’d do anything for you. I do.”
"That doesn’t answer my question."
"You didn’t ask one." Being close to someone, claustrophobia sets in. With walls closing in, pushing back is a natural response. "I’ve never loved you any less—"
"I can’t love you anymore."
I wasn’t ready for you—wasn’t ready
to feel the need leeching marrow,
seeping pores. Wasn’t ready to mis-
take someone else’s heartbeat
for my own.
I wasn’t ready…
but you were. You said
"You and me together. Now
I thought I wasn’t ready,
I was scared. I shouldn’t
have been—turns out forever didn’t last as long
as I’d assumed it would.