He doesn't love me. I know this. But he needs me more than he knows. And I'm not going to abandon him now.
When we talk, he looks at me but sees somewhere else past my shoulder, a hazy image that we both know isn't there. When we walk, he holds my hand but doesn't feel anything other than skin against skin. And in his mind, I am somebody else to him, a sort of role-playing game where the fantasy character is better than the real thing.
Isn't it always.
I sometimes wish she would just come and take him away, sweep him off in delusions of grandeur just to get it over with. So I can move on with my life. We're both expecting it, the catastrophe that never comes but maybe, in his mind, it will.
He buys me things and laughs at my jokes to compensate and make me feel like the fairy princess I was promised by the media and old storybooks and God that I would be. They're not tasteless, the things he buys: there are porcelain figurines and music boxes and snow-globes. But I grasp the cold forbidding surface of these little un-sentiments and wish every once in awhile to have a huge, ghastly stuffed animal to hold onto. One of those that you win at carnivals, and that are shades of neon and made of fuzz and fluff, and that are bigger around the middle than you are. That's what one of my snow-globes shows: a girl hugging this huge, purple Pegasus doll that's just overflowing out of her tiny arms. But all I have is the outside of the bubble she lives in.
Everyone says it is my fault for choosing to stay with him, when I could easily shed this synthetic skin and turn into something better in the next spring. But I can't leave. I've known him for a total of five months, one of the five maybe brushing against happiness. The other four months, including yesterday, today, and tomorrow is a repeat, a broken-record, of my almost-perfect ending. If there was a story about us, Disney would have definitely ended it at half a month. But I am just the outside of that bubble, and we are two people going through the motions.
It's nobody's fault. He tries, and I try. I watch him when we are on one of our pseudo-play-dates, and he tries, God, he tries so hard to really be with me. I catch him rousing himself to take a tighter, conscious grip on my hand, and sometimes his blurry eyes concentrate on me, for a brief second before he slips away from my reach again. He can't help himself, and I almost prefer it so I see his internal struggle, his fighting the good fight, to be with me. But she cut the heart from his soul when she left, and he is always looking into the distance for it. She stabbed him, wrenched him away, twisted and burned him, but just so he is still not dead and she keeps that him with her always. She is to him what he is to me, only less so because I cannot hold claim over something so lovely and dramatic and lifelong.
I was not always so... like this. I wanted to leave many times, and I still do. People say it is my fault when I could shed this synthetic skin... I hear, but this artificial skin has barb-wire hooks and if I leave him I will be doing to him what she did. I need to always sing to him, those long summer nights when he sits at home too restless and raw--just those silly little child's play lullabies, my mother taught me them. I need to always tie his ties and let him help me with the zippers on my dress, especially the green one that sticks, and go with him to get haircuts and toothpaste. I need to always pick petty fights and slap him and wait for him to apologize with a present at my door. And I forever need to smooth his burdened brow, those eyebrows I love so much to feel against my fingertips--I forever need to be there as his internal reminder that he is not lost--
--that maybe, just maybe he is okay.
I am his false sense of security chained tight with fabricated steel padlocks. He has never kissed me, has never told or even implied that he likes me, has never given me indication that I hold his overflowing happiness in my hands like that girl and her bursting Pegasus. We are those people on the outside who tap on the glass and shake the globe, watching the beauty but never being able to touch it ourselves without shattering it first.
But when he comes knocking quietly on another autumn night to stroll through the crisp leaves and dying green, I let him twirl my crocheted scarf around my neck and then I adjust his tousled hair before we go, two young people with autumn-like hearts but intertwined hands, who when people see with their naked eyes will say "that's love." And he buys hot milk teas for us, and I witness another battle that results in a painful squeeze to my hand between Sixth and Main and causes my drink to spill all over the concrete.
As he is getting napkins for us and I pout a little from the burns on my hand, I look at the stains the tea has made on the sidewalk. The patterns are very much like clouds, only dark where they are actually white, and hard, gravelly truth where they are actually fluffy inconsistencies. One is man-made, and the other is crafted by God.
He comes back with a stack of napkins and watches as I wipe myself off, truly watches. I am a little frightened by the intensity of his gaze. I am his stability, his sanity, his foundation--never his love and always his life.
And I'm not going to abandon him now.