I Can’t Tell You


I can write about you in every forum except the one you might read — well, even then I might write about it, but I’d dance around your name like a fire whose warmth I want to feel without quite being burned. Yes, if you’re wondering, it’s about you. That open letter, that song lyric, that wink and nod in your direction that is not quite explicit enough to call me out on directly. I want you to see my words and be motivated enough in them to take the first step yourself because, no matter how much I want to burst into your life with the truth of exactly how I feel about you, I know that I am not going to.

You would likely be upset if you knew how much I thought of you, how much what you are doing with your life factors into my daily routine. The world tells us we are supposed to live in cold, disparate camps of “together” and “separate” — but what about those who fall into neither category? No, we are not together. No, there is no part of you that I can lay claim to and nothing I am within my rights to demand, but are we really separate? Is the degree to which you have touched my life unimportant because it hasn’t been sealed with some kind of title?

And “I miss you” — is that only appropriate to someone who has left, someone you imagine will come back or at least longs to do so? What about the people who have never fully entered our lives, who have passed by it like a shiny car driving just slowly enough to get a glimpse at the people inside? Are we allowed to miss someone whose presence we sensed in our very bones, someone every fiber of our body told us we should have reached out to but did not? Is there an acceptable way to phrase “a nostalgia for something that never quite happened,” or is that a sentiment which is relegated to the pathetic spectators of life?

We praise honesty the way we praise kindness, and a lie of omission is still a lie. So I suppose, by that definition, I am lying to you each day that passes in which I do not say “I think about you, I wish I could talk to you, I wish my fear was something I could put aside and forget for even a moment.” I don’t mean to lie, you know. In a perfect world, I would be the kind of person who feels something with great conviction and acts upon it with unerring focus, who is sure of themselves in a way that radiates confidence and puts others at ease. If I were this kind of person, I would have come to you so long ago. I would have told you everything I really felt.

(Yes, even about that one night where I told you I needed to talk and then let you go home with a “never mind.” You and I both know that what I wanted to say was “Every time I see you from across the room and don’t talk to you, it is a punch in the stomach which reminds me just how much of a coward I can be.” But who wants to actually say that to someone at a house party?)

But I have long since accepted that I am a coward of this nature, that I am happy to write letters to myself instead of sit down with the one person who needs to listen. I will listen to music which at once dulls the more acute pains of not having the courage to be honest with you and allows me to imagine the life I could have if I did. I will lie awake some nights, looking at your name, only a click away. I will hover over your name and consider writing you, finally getting everything out that I feel dirty for not having said, and accept that even a flat “no” is preferable to hanging suspended in the unknown. But then I won’t, and I’ll pretend as though it never crossed my mind. And you will ask me how I am at a party some day, and look at me as though you really want to know, and I will say “I am fine.”

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