The Older I Get

 

the more i understand about love.
for four decades i've pondered it.
the why's, the how's, the texture
and shape of love. i have had it
and never realized it. held it in
my hands and not known exactly what
i had. i didn't understand it or
its complexities, its subtleties.

once i thought i knew everything there
was to know. i thought love was the
feeling you get after great sex. or
it was the baby you made. or it was
the house it built. it was all of
those things and more. but i didn't
know that then.

i had a great and powerful love once,
though i never believed it, never once
trusted it. i should have. i should
have known when i was told mine was the
first name he uttered when he was waking
up from surgery. should have known it
when his was the first name i uttered
after my own. but i didn't. i couldn't
see it every second of every day and so
i didn't believe it. and when you don't
believe it, it ceases to exist. love's
funny that way.

people say, "i love you," all the time.
or they ask, "you know i love you, don't
you?" and you're supposed to answer, "yes,
yes i do." and sometimes you answer "yes,"
but you don't believe it. you just say it
because it's one of those multiple question
tests you get sometimes in life to which you
think you've stolen the answer key, so you
know the correct answer, of course you do!
but do you?

he thought i was sleeping, and in fact i was
right on the brink, in that gray area between
wakefulness and sleep when dreams feel real
and real feels like a dream. and i heard him
whisper against the skin on my back, "goodnight,
my love." then i fell all the way into sleep
and it wasn't until morning that i remembered
his words, spoken in the quietest, sweetest,
most tender voice. and forgive me for being
presumptuous, but i think i know what love is
now.

i think of all the pain i've caused and the pain
that was given to me in the name of "love," and
i'd laugh if i had the energy. the things we do
to people and call it "love" should be a crime. it
is, really. it's a crime of the heart for which
the punishment is harsh and bitter and long-lasting.
it's a black stain upon the heart that nothing, not
time or distance or tears will remove. you carry
that stain with you for the rest of your life and
maybe you get rid of it when you die, or maybe you
have it lifted when you finally realize the true
meaning of "love."

did i really have to come this far, live through
these things to find all that out? it would
appear so. i think now that i've held love in
my hands many, many times and not once recognized
it, because it was disguised as duty and obligation
and responsibility, when it's really not one of
those things, but more a combination of them with
something else thrown in. something intangible and
indefinable, something invisible, but as real as the
air we breathe, invisible as that is.

four decades and here i sit in this silent room with
nothing but these words and this feeling, finally
understanding, finally knowing what it is i've been
searching for all this time. it's too late for one,
maybe too soon for this other, but i know it now and
i'll never let it slip through my hands again.

denise

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