There were times when it felt like ‘I love you’ was a tumour in the throat, words coughed out like a choke turned tight on a wrench.
For long months I kept the words pressed in at the tail of conversations, quiet incantations against the future we couldn’t admit we were afraid might be.
They admitted doubt once the saying and the hearing came to matter. They hauled unwanted cargo; the thoughts that lingered on the line after we’d hung up. We all wanted to not feel the need to make love large but you mattered and suddenly the speaking of love really mattered.
The tears out-ran us. The seasons passed, the cells split and spread as our knowing grew that you would wind up beaten, boxed, dead. There was no time left for things to stay unsaid.
Those love stops, the sedate punctuations on goodbyes were no longer enough to give the right tint to the story. There was no time to spit out enough sayings of those few words that said nothing but bound us, carried us, lifted you in our hearts.
There was no tongue twisted stammering ‘love you’ loop that could speak it as much as it was meant, felt. So we learnt a semaphore of additions, a touch, a strained smile, a shrug, a gleaming eye look. Those silences, gestures, expressions were as eloquent as sonnets.
You too had a lifetime of love still to say; the fill of years felt ahead, the ungiven gifts for tomorrow’s celebrations.
You said you loved me when you waded through memories of the life you couldn’t bear to be leaving so that your voice would stay to speak with me after you’d gone
You said you loved me when you pretended the pain was a blade rather than bulldozer; when you smiled like you meant it.
You said you loved me when you said yes to more awful aching life – more needles, more soup, more heaving on your knees, more death – even though you’d had more than enough.
You said you loved me when you knew you didn’t need to say it.
When I choked on the words, on the knot of silences to come, on the swell of my sore heart, you said ‘I know’ and that said all that needed to be said.