unspilt milk and a fat slice of cheese

I told myself that I would try to love him without attachment or expectation, without fear, but only now am I realizing what a tall order that is. For his presence is not a promise of a certain future, the kind I imagined that morning I met an elderly couple taking a stroll, holding canes and each other’s hands, or that afternoon in the supermarket with a newlywed pair laughing for some inexplicable reason over a carton of milk. I know this, yet images of that future steal into my dreams, and stalk me after I wake up, sad and disconcerted and maybe a little ashamed. I know, too, that the articulation of feeling is not a demand or admission of weakness, but of the courage to accept vulnerability as a condition of strength. Yet I persist in acting as if strength were to be found in my ability to say, “I do not and never will need you,” in the certainty that, when the time comes, I could turn my heel and stride away without a backward glance. And yet, I could relinquish my pride and obstinacy, if he would only unclench my fingers and pry them from my grasp—and give me something else to hold onto to keep me on even keel (with this sentence I belie my claim to nonattachment, affirm my fear of foundering). There are so many things I would like to tell him that I dare not say, because they are things that I cannot unsay, and I am afraid of what would unravel in the saying, whether it be the future I imagine, or the present narrative I take to be true. I suppose what I fear most here is the realization that my beliefs are but self-deceptions, more desire than distinct possibility. And on the force of this fear, I have been waiting—not for him to come around, but for the rug to be pulled from under my feet. In this way, I suffer from the shadow of pains that have not (yet) arrived, and this is no way to live. Or love.

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