How to Love Someone, A Moral Story In Three Parts

by Charlotte E. Wilde

The eggs were best before yesterday and I’m best before you get to know me, but wastefulness is wasted on you so we’ve been wasting our time together for years. 7AM finds us in our usual roles, you in bed batting sleep out of your eyes in ten-minute increments and me in the kitchen grinding coffee and my teeth.

You’re hot on the heels of a heavy dreamless sleep and I’m simmering, water on the stove and thoughts in my mind, a race to the inevitable boiling point. I think this will be a morning destined for make-believe: we’ll pretend we’re real people, accessorized with sit-down meals, latte art hearts and a side of nod-n-smile, pinkies tipped towards success.

The problem with me has always been the in-between times. The spaces where I’m left thinking are immense whereas the moments of decision and interaction are surprisingly sparse and brief by comparison. I invest hours in single moment, past or future, the reality of which took or will take mere seconds. Value becomes inflated in my mind until the immense weight of every potentiality devolves into paralysis. Last night and this morning have been spent slowly sifting yesterday’s words, the ones that made you give up on trying to get me out of the house, the ones that accused you of wanting me to be someone I’m not.

“You didn’t sleep much last night,” slides between my thoughts and the french-press in my hand.

When I turn around you’re leaning in the doorframe with a look softer than the snow silently accumulating outside and I wonder what you see that I don’t. Stuttering under the pressure of that gaze I let myself tip towards you, if only to avoid looking you in the eye. My arms are folded praying-mantis style between us but the breath I’ve been holding trickles out of me, slowly melting butter on a pancake. Time suspends. I can feel your breath warm and damp on my hair, loll and sway. Mental spreadsheets of errors and uncharted words blur and fade in the front of your t-shirt, the smell of sleep on your skin.

A harsh whistle of disapproval from the teakettle thrusts us back into our separate worlds before I have a chance to catch up on any lost sleep or sentiment. Still, I feel a creeping warmth not emanating from the stove.

“Thank you.”

Your whisper barely makes itself heard over the gurgling lisp of rolling water’s heat. The words scald more than the liquid that bubbles onto my fingers as I fumble, turning towards the sink to hide my face. With a yelp I hold them under cold water even though I’ve always told you such wives’ tale remedies are useless. This was the perfect time for a lie, but my eyes have a habit of refusing me such niceties so I don’t turn around.

I can feel you wanting to say more.

“I’m fine,” I state, dismissively shrugging and not looking up, “go take your shower, I’ll go next.”

Once I’m alone again I roll each syllable of that quiet offering through my mind, back and forth. There must have been a time I didn’t have to remind myself how to love you but the reflection of my face in my coffee cup offers no revelations to that effect.  Certainly you deserve more, you shouldn’t have to be so grateful for a handful of my affection. I’m a bad egg, but wastefulness has always been wasted on you so you refuse to throw me away. Strangely, it’s these wandering, sleepless mornings where I’m pacing in my head and the distance seems insurmountable when I find myself especially thankful for your willingness to chance our hard-boiled happiness.

I do love you. Sometimes the sentiment gets lost in the space between my lips and my mind, a yolk in the egg of my discontent, but it’s there, and arguably the most important part.

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