I’m Taking Back ‘I Love You’. {fiction}


“I’m taking back ‘I love you’.” I pause for effect. “That’s right, just like that! Starting now.”

Silence. Not awkward. Contemplative with just a splash of walking-on-eggshells mixed in. Palpable. And, in synchronicity with a city where there is a splash of walking-on-eggshells mixed into the concrete that built the jungle.

I persist, “No, it’s not one-sided. You can take it back too, if you want. I just know I’m doing it. To each his own.”

I take a long, slightly indignant sip from my wine glass. It’s a warm night, and the moon is almost full. Almost. Just that last bit is missing. Like she’s reaching for her lipstick, after which she’ll be ready. It occurs to me, no one ever questions the love of the moon. She’s tried and true that way. And, she shows up. On time. Every time.

You see, the problem is, I got careless with it; I love you, I mean. Like your grandmother’s pearl earrings left precariously on the edge of the bathroom sink, at once precious and forgotten.

I let it seep like the sludge of a leaky sewer pipe into the sub-lexicon of every day parlance that people spew all the time, but that means absolutely nothing, like “Fine” and “Great” and “You look awesome in those jeans.” No more.

It was an easy slip for me. I stood unwittingly on this very precipice for a lifetime as I was raised, face-to-the-bosom, of a slobber-kiss-and-hug old-fashioned Italian family. It was exactly what you are picturing. We expressed these words much like a small person learns to eat peas or tie a shoe. You never left a family member or said goodnight to one without telling them you loved them. And, it made good sense.

You never really knew what might come next, especially with Italians.

I look up to see how my latest revelation has landed.

“Do you ever plan to give it back?” my friend, Joe, looks mildly amused. We’ve been friends a very long time. He’s a patient man.

“I’ll give it back when I’m good and ready. When there’s something to it. When there’s action.”

“What kinda action?” Joe smirks with sophomoric amusement and maybe a hint of hope in his voice.

“Get your mind outta the gutter. I’m serious. This really bothers me.”

“Okay, okay. Tell me, quite seriously, why you are taking back ‘I love you’? I care. Though, I won’t dare tell you ‘I love you’ as I’m not sure yet where that’s going to get me.”

I lock his gaze and soften. The wine works its way through my veins and matches the warmth of the night air.

I don’t have an immediate answer, though I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I teach Yoga, which means I work in an industry where I love you is the new How are you? Where heart emoticons and lovesick bitmoji drip from Facebook posts like the scent of jasmine on a summer night. Only, there’s no scent and no jasmine. Because, there’s no such thing as virtual love.

You see, love is real. Love is action. These days love wears many cloaks, none of which fit or flatter. Most flawed and overexposed, as if under the fluorescent lights of the dressing room of our collective childhood. Verbal affirmations that show too much cleavage, intentions that don’t button, and virtual hugs that make our arses look too big — an entire department of empty promises and good deeds never done.

Once upon a time, I love you was reserved for lovers. Sure, that’s the obvious one, but even that doesn’t fit all the time. Lovers leave your house at 3 am. People who love you make you breakfast and then become your lover again as they kiss the last of the syrup from your lips.

It was reserved for family, both the one you were born with and the one you adopted along the way. It was reserved for tribe.

Empty I love you‘s are the Agent Orange to the fields of truth where love once grew in real time, nurtured and cared for by more than cheap talk.

The people who move your couch from apartment to apartment year after year, break-up after break-up, next-big-thing after next-big-thing? You love them.

The people who skip the step of off-handedly offering to bring you what you need when you are laid up with the Dreaded Mahachus on aforementioned couch, but instead just bring the damn soup. They bring it to you without asking because they know you well enough to know that you will never ask.

You will die with your cat (who doesn’t love you by the way) draped smugly over your legs, oozing on the couch under a pile of half-damp, crumpled tissues surrounded by ginger ale empties, the likes of volume you haven’t seen since your last spring break, before you ask for the soup. That’s not saying it’s right. Not asking, I mean. But, they just know that, and they love you anyway. You love them too.

The people willing to hear your story for the thousandth time and see clearly the deep vein of bad-boy-chasing that runs up your arm with so many poke holes as to make a meth addict blush and then call you on it. Yep, them too.

The ones who have seen you all Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s-dolled-up and also like the Walking Dead. Who think nothing of it when they open the door to find you un-showered (days) in your eighth-grade sweat pants and college sweatshirt and black socks because that’s what you could find on a Friday night and it’s what the pizza guy has come to expect.

The ones who hold your hand through the dark. Who manage to find you in the black hole that no one is allowed to see. But somehow, despite all laws of physics to the contrary, they pry strong, caring fingers around the edge of infinity and feel along its rim until they find a spot to loosen and unscrew the lid to whatever jar of deep despair you have been hoarding.

To rip it from your tear-soaked hands, pour your pain back out into the light, smash the jar and the black hole of darkness along with it.

Real love frees us from prison walls of isolation, constructed with the brick and mortar of egotism and fear, painted institutional-white and hung eye-level with hollow proclamations of love in 140 characters or less. These proclamations are measured in bouquets of Likes as real as blue carnations.

I grab the now-empty jar where I house my darkness. I look around. No one is there. I begin to dig the floor of the cell wall. I am getting out. Each time I make it real, I am getting out.

Joe’s hand is on mine. “Fi, you okay?” I lift my gaze.

“Yea, yes, I’m okay.” I slowly exhale and sense the moon’s light kiss my bare shoulders. Real. True.


NicoleBHaggNicole B. Hagg has performed most jobs short of smelting tar. A lawyer in her former life, she is presently a full-time writer and Yoga teacher. She only legally took her married name post-divorce (explain that to the lady at the DMV) and runs 26.2 miles on her days off for fun. Nicole is a self-taught, evolving ukulele player, an amateur triathlete who is viscerally afraid of swimming, and a hopeless romantic who works every day to live her openhearted truth. She aspires to be the world’s leggiest 5’2” Rockette. Girl’s gotta dream. Nicole resides in Denver, Colorado on Hijinks Farms — the name she gave her backyard to feel more like a farmer.  There, she raises two endlessly funny small people, six chickens, two cats and an appropriate amount of trouble. Connect with her on Facebook. Nicole is presently editing her debut novel, “Great Love Stories Include a Frenchman.”


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