One night I lay by my ex’s side, watching the sky. He told me about all the places we’d see together. The castles in Scotland, the aurora borealis, the beaches in Greece. That one day we’d cash out all our money and run away, go to Spain, rent an apartment, hold hands in Disneyland. He promised me that he would take me to places I’d only dreamed of. He talked about the wallpaper we’d have or how we’d sleep on the floor or the songs we’d dance to in the kitchen. And when he told me he wanted to kiss me, I felt all of it was true. I felt the warm beach sand, the cool breeze in my curls, the swivel of the teacup ride as we both laugh, the wonder of nights full of stars in places that have no names. And I felt him beside me, real and warm and complete. He said, quiet enough for only me to hear, “I love you. Always.”
He left me for another girl a few months later.
A string of men continued, all promising, all holding my hand, all talking about a future. “This is where we’ll go,” they say. “I’ll take care of you,” they promise. “I love you. Always.” They all leave, different situations, but always the same going, the same silhouette as they depart.
I don’t mind the giving. The investment. I don’t mind letting myself be vulnerable to them. It’s the step back that hurts, the repealing. The change of mind. Retracting “always” like it was an exchange. I’m scared of “always.” When this word tumbles out of their mouths, I stiffen and I know. I know there’s an end, no matter how many futures we weave together on the spindle.
Because I imagined it all. The legos on the floor from our toddler, straightening their tie before work, burning an egg for breakfast because I’m too distracted laughing at all their jokes. The stained apron, the mismatched mugs for tea and coffee, our framed wedding photo. When I hear the word “always” I see it, all our cabinets full of hodgepodge, my insistence on throw pillows for guests, my head in the crook of their neck as we slow-dance with earphones on in case our neighbors complain about noise. I think sometimes I’m the only one who takes “always” for what it really means.
They all go. And “always” peels away from me like a second skin, leaving me raw and unguarded. All the sweet kisses and the broken clocks we swear to fix someday. The first piece of furniture we buy together. The nights we huddle under a blanket fort. And I lose again.
I hope my next love is my last love.
I hope they never say “always.” I hope when they hold me, they will hold me like that until we’re both gray-haired and hunchbacked and taking too long to climb the stairs. I want a love that will wait for me as I forget to turn off the lights, who will remember that I hate coffee, who I can plant a garden for and they’ll never complain about the weeds. Who won’t mind the paint stains on my cheek as we paint the walls, who will complain about me taking the blanket only to scoot closer, who will lift my veil, gossamer-light, and look at me glassy-eyed. Who won’t promise me Greece or Spain, maybe just a movie, but who’ll hold my hand in the popcorn container like we’re prepubescent kids, giggling between Skittles and gummy bears in our teeth.
I want to love. All of the leaving hasn’t left my jaded. I want to give someone all my secrets, whisper them in the car as we drive along a quiet street, listening to slow songs. I want to surprise them on their birthdays and bring home little things that remind me of them. I want our doodles on the refrigerator. I want to come home to them every day without a worry. I want my next love to be my last.
Here’s to hoping.
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