Is it love when you kiss a boy in the bathroom at the hostel where all the boys go to masturbate? Is it when you’re hungover in the shower and you can’t tell if this was the best or worst decision of your life? Is it that feeling you get when he smiles deviantly at you? Is it when he plumes his feathers at the bar and gyrates in your general direction?
Is it when you both decide to be friends and he moves on very quickly? Is it when he sleeps with all those other girls and calls it nothing? Is it when he starts seeing someone new and never brings her around? Does he prefer to keep the two of you separate? Was he in love with her? Does love make a boy get as drunk and high as he did after they broke up? And if you weren’t in love with him, why were you so relieved when you heard they were through?
Is it when you are friends and he gets all huffy-puffy when you have a conversation with another man? Or maybe it’s when you overhear him asking your friend if you’re sleeping with anyone? Or when he asks how your online dating account is going? Does he have any competition? Is it when he is relieved to see your other Boy-Who-Is-A-Friend leaves the country? Is it when you play ping-pong and he coaches you in the art of ping-ing? Perhaps it’s when you suck so bad at it and he encourages you anyway? Is it when he asks if you want to sit in his lap or drink his orange juice? And even though you say ‘no,’ is it love when he wants you to stick around anyway?
Is it love when he invites you to The Rhino again where you first kissed– before you got to know him– and he gently cupped your ass while everybody on Queen Street West watched? Does making out really mean nothing to a boy? Does he invite you because he doesn’t want to be rude? Because you’re friends now and the thrill of kissing you is old news? Or does he invite you because he remembers and thinks on it fondly?
Is it when a bunch of your friends, including him, want to live together in a big house owned by a quirky astrologer who spits on a counter to clean it for the inaugural signing of the lease? Is it love when he asks for a hand job while you wash the floors? And even though you say no, he still wants you to listen to some music he likes? Or how about a couple hours later, when he asks for a threesome just in case you change your mind about the hand job? And even though you haven’t, he still wants to sit with you on the bus? Is that it? Is that love? Is it the feeling you get when you hug in the drafty entrance of the hostel in the dead of winter? When you feel the heat of his lips graze your forehead and the way it warms you from the top of your head to the tip of your toes? That feeling. Is that love?
Is it when he opens up just a little bit and tells you a teeny-tiny piece of his life story? How he was studying to be a translator and dropped out, just like you? Or how he was in retail, just like you? Is it when he calls you ‘beautiful’? Or when he learned the word ‘babe’ and wanted to try it out on someone? Was it love when he tried it out on you?
Is it when he offers to watch porn with you to liberate you from your Jesus-y-ness?
Is it when you’re scared to be in the house by yourself (because the tenant downstairs just got back from being arrested… because you called the cops on him) and he tells you to lock the doors till he gets there? Is it when he hugs you when he finally arrives and it’s the securest thing you’ve felt all day?
Is it when he likes your photos on Instagram?
Is it when he sighs when you try speaking another language?
Is it when you try to follow Sofia’s advice and just be nice? Not so cold all the time. Is it love when you help decorate for his birthday and bring cupcakes and make him a homemade card out of scrap paper you found in a random filing cabinet at the hostel?
Is it when he saw how happy you were when Lara brought that footbath and you grinned from ear-to-ear? When he remarked on your smile and bounced a little, not because he likes foot baths, but because you were happy? He was happy to see you happy. Is that love?
Did you love him after the two of you had a cordial disagreement over What’s App and then it became less cordial and you were texting him while you were in church and when you saw this wasn’t going to end until you called him? Did you love him when you went downstairs in the middle of the sermon to explain what happened and you think you reached him and then you go back up to the service and you sit down and he continues to nag you with texts and you’re pissed so you fight back and lay a fucking good argument down. He stops there and doesn’t fight you any more and then the whole group chat fucking blows up and he tells you to come to the house and talk so you do. You go to the fucking house after singing about the redeeming love of Christ and you’re distracted while you sing it and on the way there, you practice what you’re going to say to him the whole way there. It takes you over an hour to get there and–
Somewhere between here and there, you realize that–
because you never met a man that you cared enough to travel an hour just to fight with face-to-face. To make it fucking work. And you wondered what it would be like to kiss him now. Now that you knew you loved him. Would it feel like it did back at The Rhino in October? Or in the women’s bathroom in Apartment 3? Would the missing ingredient make the kiss taste different now?
And 45 minutes into your bus ride over, he texts you to tell you he’s tired and he’s going to bed and then you get mad again because you’re already there so you go in through the back door and you go upstairs and you aren’t leaving till he opens the fucking door so you knock and knock and knock until he wakes up and he finally does and said he doesn’t want to talk but you aren’t a fucking pussy so you keep knocking and he’s half asleep, maybe a little high, and his sentences don’t even make sense and then he says he’s with somebody and–
And you affirm the statement by repeating it back to him, “You’re with somebody.”
Then he says yeah but then he says no and that he isn’t with anybody and he tells you to give him ten minutes and wait downstairs so you do because, because, because you don’t know what else to do and you go to the dusty kitchen, you open up the cupboard and put all your food in a plastic bag and you open the fridge and lift up your guacamole–
He’s downstairs now and sits on the couch. He’s scruffy and unkempt. You say everything you practiced and he keeps saying things that make you angrier and you are losing your temper now and your voice is rising and he smiles. A sly smile. You tell him you’re leaving and you feel so small. It feels like it did when you were five and told your parents you were running away. They knew you’d be back. But this time you meant it. You really, really meant it.
The silence is heavy and uncomfortable as you back out of the door. You walk away. You get onto the bus and you don’t cry once. You get back to the condo you’re staying at. You need groceries for work tomorrow. Just before you leave, you fall to the floor with an ugly sob. You make your lunch and have a shower. Then you sharpen your claws and chug some NyQuil.
Maybe, just maybe, it will help you sleep. Maybe, just maybe, it will make tomorrow easier. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you forget about the day you fell in love with a boy who didn’t love you back.