The first time you said "I love you" to me, the first time anyone had ever said "I love you" to me. It popped up out of the blue, jarring and incongruent with the rest of our conversation. An accusation demanding to be addressed, a noose waiting to claim me.

"Hey, I love you."

Silence.

And then,
panic.

No, you do not love me. You cannot possibly love me. How can you if you do not know me that well? You do not know what I am and what I have been. I am a walking bag of flaws. Do you not see that? How can you say that? How can you possibly say that you love me? No, you do not love me.

"Fine. Let's just drop this."

And so that was that.