I keep telling you ‘I love you’
and it comes out as an apology.
I’m sorry. You want it to be bolder, bigger, less pathetic.
‘Love’ has become a fighting word for us.
You argue that you love me more. I don’t object.
I turn over in bed, sob into the pillow, pity myself.
I mumble it back to you because you
like the way it sounds coming out of my mouth.
We’ve turned caring for each other into a duty dance
that’s cheapened ‘love.’
It has become another way of apologizing
as you roll your eyes and say, ‘Sorry, I forgot to buy milk’,
a habit with every evening’s, ‘Night, love you too’,
a promise we keep breaking:
‘Of course I won’t, I love you’,
It hits me that we no longer know what it means
when you slap me across the face and instantly,
I tell you I love you. I can’t help it.
I have spent months associating it with this much pain.
My insides are bullet-holed basins where the past goes to die.
I feel death when you stand close.
Stay away from me.
I love you.
— Lora Mathis, “We Need a New Word for ‘Love,’ It’s Overused”