Brianne wasn’t working, so she had a lot of her days free. Since I did, too, we would meet for lunch or coffee, she would enlist me to go with her on shopping trips, or we might catch a movie. Brianne and I never had any trouble talking--not before, and certainly not now with so much to catch up on. It was the thing I liked most about spending time with her. It didn’t matter what the subject, we always seemed to find a common interest, and even if the other wasn’t interested, it became something to explore. “Oh, you’ve never had mochi before? It’s made out of a rice paste, you know. There’s a whole legend about rabbits making it on the moon.” Then we’d go and get mochi, and now the snack I liked was also a snack Brianne liked.
At one point, our talks lead us to her favorite movie as listed in her online bio. “The thing about Amelie is,” she said, “it’s the one romantic movie with a happy ending where I can believe they would get together. The whole thing is about coincidence and fate, and it’s light throughout, so you wouldn’t accept any less of an outcome.”
“You’d prefer most stories to end more tragically, though?”
“In a way. The kind of movies that get to me are more about unrequited love. The forbidden love. He has fallen for her, but he can’t have her, that kind of thing.”
I wasn’t positive whether she meant that to be a warning or a green light for me to go ahead or it was just a horrible coincidence and she didn’t see me that way at all. So, I decided to explore. “Wouldn’t you prefer that the man be more of a man, though? Kick in the door, pick the woman up, and carry her off into the night?”
“Maybe,” Brianne said, “but he’d have to do a lot of heavy lifting to make me believe it.”
I’m not sure there was ever a bull that saw a more obvious red flag waved by a matador that was possibly this clueless. I decided to take the statements at face value. This was the challenge that was laid before me. I went home that night and I wrote a letter and told her everything I felt about her, told her my resolve to fix the terrible error that had been made in our youth, to prove to her that mine was a love that should be requited. It would go on forever regardless of whether or not we could show it. Like the song says, “You are what you love, and not what loves you back.”
The thing was, it wasn’t a letter to give to her, at least not yet. (And it’s certainly not a letter whose poetry can be shared with you. I probably shouldn’t have even written about it here. Then again, what did I say about why we put our lives online?) Right then, the letter was a covenant with myself more than it was a message to Brianne. I guess it was my promise to both of us that I would not let these feelings wane, and when the time was right, I’d share them. I signed it and dated it so she could see that it was the same night as our talk--in a rather cruel twist, I was with her while she was shopping for decorations for Adam’s birthday party that was scheduled for the next day, so it was a date she would remember--and then I folded it and put it in my wallet. I would carry it wherever I went, a constant reminder to myself that this was the only thing I really wanted, the only thing that mattered. If the lover cursed to never have the object of his desire was the sort she preferred, I’d allow her to transform me into him. Even if I was unsuccessful, I’d still have given her more than Adam ever could: I’d make fiction flesh.
After that, when we were together, I would try to steer the conversation to more intimate topics. I would say really obvious things like, “You know, I’ve always wanted a mate that totally understood me. Like, if we moved in together, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her book collection and mine. We’d have to sell DVDs because we’d have doubles of so many! Do you and Adam have that?”
Brianne would take the bait nearly every time. There seemed to be an endless list of things to complain about in regards to Adam, in regards to wishes unfulfilled and opportunities missed. Like how she had dropped out of graduate school to go to work and help him pay his student loans, and then when he started to make a lot of money, she just never found her way back, and though she made it possible for him to get out of debt and pursue his goals, he held it against her that he was now the sole bread winner. That one really pissed me off. “You don’t deserve that,” I told her.
“No, I don’t think so either.”
“One of the greatest things about you is your brain, the way you think about things. You need a man who is going to appreciate that.”
“I know, I know. But what can I do?”
Indeed, what could she do. The door was unlocked. I could see the way in. All I had to do was gamble, to take a chance. It probably wasn’t much of a gamble at all, actually, so who was I kidding trying to talk myself out of it? Substitute Boyfriend, it’s time for you to be the hero you fancy yourself to be.
Take the chance, S.B., take it!
“I love you,” I said.
She stared at me like it was another language, or maybe offensive words people aren’t supposed to say in polite society. It wasn’t the reaction I wanted. I wanted to open my mouth and for her to hear music come out.
“I love you.” This time more adamant.
“I love you.
“I love you.” Waving my hands like releasing a bird.
“I love you. There.” I pointed at some invisible object between us. “I said it. It’s out, it’s done. Look at it. ‘I love you.’ Turn it in your hands, examine it from every angle. It’s like a palindrome. It’s going to be the same in any direction.
“I love you.”
I kept looking at her. I would not turn away. Her eyes were filling with tears, and they were recognizable to me because they matched the ones in my own. I tried to invent another way I could say those three words again, something more novel, some approach that would make it all clear to her in a real, undeniable sense, but there was nothing. I had poured it all out. I was a car and my lights had been left on overnight, and now my battery was dead, I needed her to give me a jump and start me again.
“You can’t,” she said, finally.
“You can’t. You can’t love me.”
“Yes, I can! We can do whatever we want.”
“No. I’m married.”
“But you just got through telling me--”
“Why did you never kiss me in school? If you had kissed me, it would have been different.”
“I’ll kiss you now.”
“No,” she said, but I didn’t listen. I was up close to her, my arms were around her, I was pulling her close--
--and I kissed her.
She leaned into it, returned my movements. She tasted like cloves and I could smell a faint whiff of sweat, sour yet inviting. It was a kiss we had waited a decade for, and I wasn’t sure how I could ever breathe again were my mouth to become disconnected from hers.
Only then Brianne broke the spell, pulled away from me, turned around, and ran away.
“I love you.”