We pick our way through the stands, searching for the perfect view of the arena. There aren’t many people here so we settle ourselves a couple of rows from the top and laugh loudly together. It feels good to laugh. To chuckle, giggle and guffaw. We cheer on our friend as she hits the makeshift field. His leg lines up against mine. His arm heats my left side. I try not to let my mind flit away. I try to calm the thumping of my heart. The unexpected, unwanted and inconvenient fluttering of attraction like beating wings against my face. It’s late. I’m hungover. I’m lonely. I want to search out and fold my hand into his but I don’t. I want someone to brush the hair from my neck. I feel nauseous and I blame it on the nachos we had earlier.
He asks me about my last relationship. He asks me how it ended.
“I guess, in the end I broke up with him because I was scared.”
“What were you afraid of?”
“I thought that if I stayed we would end up married; that I was too young to feel so old; that I needed to be young while I still could. I was scared and when I get scared I run like hell.”
He explores me with his eyes. Searches out my heart and turns it over. All these insecurities like shiny black beetles in the palm of his hand, crawling over the ground, displaced.
“It’s stupid, I guess. Really.”
“It’s not stupid. It’s survival.”
It feels like survival. It feels like a narrow escape. It feels like a million different things that I don’t say out loud but only feel in my gut rattling around like a beggar’s cup. Spare some change?
I can’t. I want to. There are things I would change if I could. If I could iron it all out I’d make it starched white linen. I’d package it in cellophane, brand new. I can’t spare any of it. I cling to my broken heart as though the battered thing might be stolen from me if I set it down for even a moment. I hold it close to keep it alive, barely beating. I drum out the time for it with my fingertips. It’s exhausting just to maintain myself. No. No, I can’t spare anything.
I love you in waves. I love you when I get my spirits up, when I feel refueled. I don’t know what the fuel is or where it comes from. It’s like waking up and knowing you’re going to have a good day. It’s a delicate balance, loving you. Today I feel like I’m pushing this broken down car uphill but I do it for you. I mean to get there, eventually. We are, the both of us, trudging forward in stubborn determination.
I think about booking a ticket West. I think about your days and how they are gray, now. I think maybe I could learn to accept this place that harbors my most intimate disappointments. I could sit in silence with you. We could stop time and let the physical world catch up to our dreams. I could know you. We could be comfortable , maybe, an arm’s length away. Only ever an arm’s length, you said.
I’m afraid to change. I’m afraid to let myself change, to put myself together, to set my heart down even for a moment lest it end up in the wrong hands. They are all the wrong hands. I want your hands tracing the veins under my skin, drawing the map back to myself. I want your stormy eyes to turn bright blue for me. For us. I want to lay my love heavy on you like a wool blanket.
I want to find you underwater and surface dripping.I want to rest my head in the hollow of your chest and try not to drown, this time. I don’t care, though. I will grow gills for you. I will learn to find the oxygen in water, for you. I will survive this.
Spare some change? I can’t. But, I will. I will go broke for you.
I will stay broken for you. Struggling uphill, if you find me at the crest. If I see you in the distance. If my pupils can expand for the love of you, to take it all in. To take you in.
I love you in bars and sports arenas in the lull between words, in the steps I take when I leave with other men. Trying not to change too quickly.
El Perro Del Mar – Change of Heart