subject line: in another life.

 

The Desert

In another life, I think I’d be her.

35,000 feet up in the air, and you listed off all of the things you love about her, I wonder if you realize that those are all the things she and I have in common. You carried the ring around all week and I told you not to show me because I wanted her to see it first, but that was a lie, I just didn’t want to give myself hope that it could ever be for me. You didn’t get on your knee that week, or the week after, or the one after that, but when the day came months later, I was able to smile because I know she’s perfect for you, I guess I just wished I could have been too.

If you ever read this, I hope you know that I’m not jealous, angry, or heartbroken, I’m just a little dissapointed that life doesn’t work like it does in the movies.

You’d give me a sense of security, a Christian household with a white picket fence and a dog. We’d read our Bibles and smile thinking about the day we met as teenagers many years ago. We’d reminisce about the time you played my boyfriend in a church play, and how you held my hand and while you’d recite your lines and I stared into your eyes pretending that I was only acting. Laughter would permeate the house as we remembered all of the times I rolled my eyes at you, as you shoved a microphone in my hand and told me to sing, and how I secretly thanked you for constantly pushing me out of my comfort zones.

We’d also probably fight over the fact that you’ve always told me you want to be a dad, but I never want to be a mom. We’d bicker about me not being a very good pastors wife because I enjoy sitting in the back of the church, and that I should probably talk to more people. You’d most likely get tired of my eye rolling, and I’d get tired of your need to constantly have friends around and I’d hide in the room and you’d play your music loud and we’d both roll our eyes.

It all sounds great, but I really do wish you and her well. I hope she gives you lots of babies, I’m happy to one day call you both my pastors even when you both bug me to sit closer to the front of the church. I pray that for every time I roll my eyes, she gives you a hundred smiles more, and that she continues to dance to all of your favorite music with all of your friends.

In another life, I think I’d be her, but I’m finally coming to terms with this life that I have now.

subject line: the truth I never told you.

 
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Fort Lauderdale, Florida

last night, i started to go through my things and i found pieces of you that you left behind.
without much hesitation, i tossed them and didn’t look back.
and at first, it felt okay.
like waking up unburdened by the demand of the day or the time or even just the alarm.
but in the back of my mind, i knew it wasn’t the small trinkets you collected and gifted that i needed to face.
i knew that if i was truly going to grab hold of proper excavation for the sake of a new year,
i needed to open the box.

the one i tucked away at the bottom of my closet the night you left for the last time.
the one with two years worth of letters and pictures and old movie stubs and concert bracelets and paper roses.
i sat in the middle of my room where my bed used to be when you laid on it and held me on the days it felt either too much or simply not enough.
and i read your words.
i read your brokenness and your open wounds and your fears.
i ingested your passion for me once more,
and i wanted to cry.

but the tears that threatened to show face weren’t for you.
it wasn’t that i missed you or that i wished you were kissing my hand instead of her lips.
no, it was the fear of never waking up next to someone i love ever again.
the wonder of whether or not words this heavy will ever be born for my eyes.
the question of safety finding a home in my body.

because you woke me up to a whirlwind of unexpectations.
you spun me into your perfect cobweb of everything you were afraid to lose.
i lost myself in you.
did you know that?
i forgot everything that made my throat sing and instead, i spent two years in anxiety because no matter how deluded i gave myself permission to be,
i was terrified of living a life you didn’t exist in.
my worst bout of anxiety ensued from the moment you put your hands on my hips to the day you walked away.
because the reality is you liked my body more than my heart for you.
after all, we did start with a one night stand.
and then one night became three
and three became 3am phone calls
and 3am became days in your truck.
i said to choose me and you said okay.

and i know i told you that i loved you and i swear i meant every second of it.
but there’s something you should know:
my worst self came alive when you were inside me.
i had a mental breakdown that brought my mother to her knees in prayer and her eyes to floods.
i left cuts on an arm i swore i’d never hide ever again.
i drowned in inebriation just to stop the shakes.
i distanced myself from everyone who ever chose me because i wanted to make room for you.
but what an incredible facade i kept up with you.
i couldn’t bare to tell you how being “us” felt more like standing in the dark and hoping to God someone would light a match.

all because i liked the way you looked at me.

so you see,
i’m not tossing this box because it hurts too much.
i’m tossing it because i deserve the room your absence has given me.
the space to find how completely worthy of peace i am.
that i don’t have to rearrange my body just to make someone else fit—-they just will.
but only if they’re meant to.
only if loving them feels more like freedom than bondage.
stillness rather than trembling desperation.

I am thankful that i loved you.
just not as deeply as i am loving myself.

subject line: I know you well enough.

 
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The Coast

I know you well enough to know that this is the end of this. I’m not surprised. I saw it coming. It wasn’t sustainable. Such a funny way to look at a connection with another person. We weren’t sustainable. I know if I called you on it you’d say that you’ve been busy but I know you well enough to know that’s not it. I don’t know what makes me more sad. Knowing that’s it’s over. Or that it never got a chance to get good. To be really good. You’re going to fade away and I am going to let you even though no part of me wants to. Because I know you well enough to know that you won’t chase me. And that right there, well that hurts the most. But you don’t know me well enough to know that.

subject line: we don't lock eyes anymore.

 

Garage

There’s no way someone is still thinking of that email from two plus years ago, right? I wrote “We Keep Locking Eyes” in September of 2016. Here is the truth about that email. I had a tremendous amount of fun with the boy from that email. He is charming, and no, I still will never forget his laugh. It was also a time period in which I was dealing with an insane amount of anxiety. He and I never talked about anything serious. It was fun for a few months, and then that got to be exhausting because we all know that life can get serious, and part of having companions is being able to confide in them. So here’s what really happened.

I continued to let him be the boy in my bed for a few months, and I continued to go on Tinder dates with other people because I was certain he would never love me. I was also certain I deserved to be treated better. We were at a bar one night, and I started a cake fight. After we were sufficiently drunk and covered in cake, he asked if I was coming home with him. I told him no, and said I wanted something more serious from my relationships. There is a lot I don’t clearly recall from this conversation. I hope that he remembers it but I can’t make any guarantees on either of our parts. I remember he told me I disregard other peoples’ feelings. I remember feeling surprised because as far as I was concerned, he had never tried to talk to me about having any feelings for me. He said he hopes I find what I’m looking for. I went home and cried and was pissed that the entire duration of our relationship felt like a big miscommunication.

In retrospect, here’s what I realized. Not communicating doesn’t equate to a miscommunication. If I wanted something more serious, I should have told him. I didn’t tell him because I didn’t think he was grown up enough to want the same things. If he wanted something more serious or felt slighted that I was blatantly seeing other people, he should have told me. He didn’t, and I don’t know why. Maybe he knew I would have been unapologetic about dating around or maybe he just never wanted anything more serious. I still see him once or twice a year. Last time I saw him, we played drinking games with our friends, and bought each other beers. Then I went home. I’ll always have a big, dumb crush on him, but I need to be with someone who doesn’t run from problems or shy away from uncomfortable conversations. I hear through the grape vine that he’s kind of growing up, but he seems just the same those one or two times a year. I hope he finds someone who can clearly communicate their expectations to him. I won’t go into the details of my life apart from this story, but I am a lot healthier than I was two years ago. I am a lot more assertive about what I want. I’m having completely different battles and trying to tackle them without getting drunk too often or napping in the middle of the day. I’m dating someone, and it seems to be going well.

I don’t think this is the romantic story anyone wanted, but it’s the truth. Maybe it is romantic in that I finally started to prioritize myself. I stopped overanalyzing every dumb text. I’m not sure where my current relationship is headed. If I am single again, I’ll approach it a lot differently than totally romanticizing someone who was just fun and charming. Just fun and charming is just fun and charming. It isn’t enough.

subject line: it's been 8 months.

 
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Ohio

It’s been eight months. Eight months means I should be entirely over you by now. Eight months means you shouldn’t cross my mind. Eight months means that I shouldn’t catch myself checking if the blue car that pulled onto my street is yours. But I still do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m over you. We weren’t compatible, you didn’t love me right, and I was the worst version of myself when I was around you. But this is the time of year where everyone has someone they’re planning on kissing at midnight on New Years Eve. And this is the time of the year for thinking remisicence and nostalgia. So, though it’s actually been a good year, I’m still busy remembering the way you left me 8 months ago and never looked back. Not once.

And that’s what still gets me after all this time. One day, you’re holding my hand in your car, kissing me at stoplights, and calling me baby, and the next day you’re driving me home and saying, “I don’t feel the same anymore, but we can still be friends.” And then after that, after I spent an evening that should have been fun ugly crying in the passenger seat of your car, wrapping arm around your neck and never wanting to let go as I miserably refused to step out of your car, after that you were absolutely gone.

You should know that I don’t want you back, I just want to know that I ever meant anything to you. Because you should know that walking away like that makes a girl feel disposable and forgettable and I’m praying you don’t make the next one feel like that. I deserved better. But maybe I’ll pass you someday in this too small town and I won’t speak a word of any of this to you. I’ll smile, say hi, and walk away. Because now it’s my turn. Now, I can.

Here I am, eight months later, still thinking of you on occasion, but stronger than I could have ever believed. Happy holiday season— from the parts of me that are forgiving and kind, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you choose to walk into it better.

subject line: Happy Birthday, C.

 
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Tubsy, Washington

Today is his birthday. He turns twenty-seven. We’ve know each other for almost half our lives now. Torn one another apart. Put one another back together.

I helped him pick the ring. I wrote an email about helping him plan the proposal, but I didn’t tell you I helped him pick the ring out too. It’s his birthday, he’s engaged, and I’m still alone.

I wished him happy birthday this morning and he wrote me back,
You have such a special place in our hearts,
he said. Like I’m dead or something. That makes me sound like I’m dead and I don’t know why other than I feel dead. I don’t even know how to write all this down. He’s gonna marry her, and it’s my fault. I had half my life to tell him how I really felt, and I never found the guts to do it. I wore his flannels and sweaters, read his books, made him tea, laughed with him, cried with him, everything. We’ve done it all together. We’ve sat in trees in the forest of his backyard, canoed down the river, eaten pasta on his rooftop. We’ve driven to his grandpa’s homestead, watched The Office while sitting in the same rocking chair, chased the moon. He put black-eyed susans in my hair. I trimmed his beard. We built a swing together. Fished. Climbed. Learned. Sang.
But he never picked me. I never asked him too.

What kind of hell have I made for myself?

subject line: how do I miss something I never had?

 

Nashville, TN

It’s weird going to college and everyone seems to have these heartbreaking stories of first love and last breakups. People are bonding over broken hearts and tears of regret and I feel so at a loss. I haven’t experienced that loss, I haven’t experienced that love. And the way they talk about it, the quiet that settles around us at 5 AM, it makes something inside my chest ache like nothing ever has. I don’t understand how it hurts so much when I’ve never experienced it. It makes me scared about what will happen when I do experience that.

And it makes me scared that I’ll never experience those emotions that makes everyone pause and nod in understanding and shared heartache.

subject line: the side of heartbreak that nobody talks about

 
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the peach state

Romance fills the air like smoke. Either we cough it up or we make it our new oxygen. Breathing either becomes a little easier, or we heave in the air with defiant lungs. And people either talk about their hearts skipping a beat or breaking. They talk about either the knots or the butterflies in their stomach. I see it everywhere — people talking about love and heartbreak, the boy who slept in another bed, the girl who watched the love of her life get married to someone else, someone falling into a pit of depression when the person they cherished most decided to walk away. Romance. It can kill you. But there’s another side of heartbreak that nobody talks about, and it’s just as capable of fatality.

Platonic love. Surely, that won’t walk away. Of course, you’ll be friends forever. You hit it off in college and she’ll be the maid of honor at your wedding and your kids will grow up together. Or maybe you met it middle school. You went through the very short stage of thinking of him more than a friend, but then you realize you “don’t want to ruin that friendship” and your heart swoons for another guy in high school who ends up breaking your heart. And your best friend is the shoulder to cry on, right? The one you bake cookies with at 2 in the morning while Seinfeld plays in the background, the person you come to get advice from after your mom gives you the advice you don’t want to hear. Or maybe it’s a group of friends. You all go to different colleges and lose touch even though you swore up and down that you would do everything in your power to make it work.
When I start to look at someone as my “best friend”, it scares me to death. Because “best friends” have broken my heart in the past. And the nights when my friends and I stay out late at Waffle House, laughing and learning the life story of the waitress who complains about the lack of music available on the jukebox, running through trails to get to that perfect spot by the lake where we can stargaze and then rolling down that steep hill while that one responsible friend stays at the top and yells at everyone to stop because “someone is bound the get hurt”, or maybe we skip the stargazing and go to someones house and watch a movie that we’ve all seen while the girlfriend falls asleep on the boyfriends chest (every friend group has a perfect couple, right?) and the two people who thought about dating but never actually did just flirtatiously throw popcorn at each other, when I spend nights like this with my friends, I find myself feeling the need to put up some sort of wall because it scares me. Losing them scares me. It doesn’t matter that we’ve known each other for six or or so years. It doesn’t matter that the gifts we all gave each other for Christmas were deeply meaningful and showed just how much we cared for each other. I’m so scared that they will walk away. I’m so scared that one day, we’ll all lose touch, or something will happen that will pull us all apart. And sometimes, driving home from the nights of adventure with my friends, I find myself crying in my car because I remember that one friend who treated me like shit and left me with the kind of spirit that doesn’t trust people easily. I remember that one friend who used to call me randomly, we’d talk on the phone for hours, everyone would say how inseparable we were, and then there was a silent letting go of each other, a “hey, I know you said this and that’s not okay so I’m gonna walk away now”, a disagreement, a picture posted of their new best friend when you haven’t talked in two weeks. Friendship can kill, too. But no one seems to talk about that. Is it because it hurts so much? Is it because for some reason, we feel like people can’t relate as much as they can to the boy who didn’t say “I love you” back, so we deem our stories of broken friendships unworthy to share? Friends effect our hearts. They make it easier to breathe sometimes. But they can also make breathing a bit harder. And I’m scared of losing my breath.

subject line: dear little girl

 
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Akron, OH

I saw you, I probably was the only one who did.
I saw you trying to win your biological mom’s approval. The day you went up to her after a fight with your step-dad, and you apologized for it. Instead of a hug or a “it’s not your fault, you were told to pick sides that day.
I saw you when you pet the dog with both hands lightly around the neck just trying to show someone love that could be returned, and instead of believing you when you said you didn’t choke her, they called you a liar. You missed your big pre-school picnic that day. Instead, they sent you up to your room in the attic. I don’t remember seeing you eating, but I could be wrong. I do remember seeing you sneak down the attic stairs, crack the door, and longingly stare as they cuddled fondly with your little sister. You cried yourself to sleep that night, but it wasn’t the first time you had.
I saw you when you made imaginary friends out of the Winnie-The-Pooh picture frame on your dresser. You believed so hard that they were real that you swore you saw them move. They were your only real friends at that house, and you were in your room so often that you were glad you had them.
I saw you when you would wake up, and shuffle down the stairs only to be yelled at to return to bed until they were ready. You sat upstairs hungry, listening to music to get your mind off of breakfast.
I saw all the meals you skipped, not because you wanted to, but because you had no choice.
I watched you as you got older. And I saw the day that she forgot about your time with her. When you were supposed to meet at the baseball field at noon but stayed there until 2 because she had to be called and reminded of your time together.
I saw you when you sat with your sister behind the closed door of the back room, keeping an eye on the door so none of the partiers on the other side stumbled in and frightened her. I also saw you when you would hold your biological mom’s hair back as she threw up the next day. You didn’t share every story with your dad though, because you loved your sister too much to not go back.
I saw you cry out the window as your biological mom drove away with a new man. She moved to New York, and never said anything to you about their marriage or their new life. You saw pictures later and everyone was there but you.
I saw you the day your new step dad tickled you so bad it hurt, and you screamed for him to stop and he wouldn’t. When you were called a sissy for getting upset.
I saw you the day she sat you on the counter and complained to you about her marriage. When she trusted you and then told you that taking your advice would be stupid. I saw you the day she handed you a letter of apology, for everything she’d done wrong. And then turned around to her friend and called you the “oops” baby.
I still see you, ya know, you’ve tried all those years to earn her love. And now, though you finally understand it’s unearnable, you still want it. I hope I get to watch you get over her. And be set free once and for all, because that would be the good memory to remember, instead of all the bad.
I saw you, I see you. Let it go, set yourself free. You won’t earn her love. And she doesn’t deserve yours

subject line: I'm over it, but I still stalk your Instagram

 
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Pennsylvania

I think humans like to believe that we are the best at loving another human.
“No one will love you better than I can.”
But truth is, she just might be a better lover than me. She might listen better, might fit onto your chest and under your arm better, might remember the lyrics to your songs better, might know the right words to say better than I ever did.
So I like to say that “I’m the best you’ll ever have,” in order to preserve my pride - to make myself feel better about how she’s “the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen” even though you told me that everyday. But I’m probably wrong.
Is she better? I might not ever know.
But if I really was the best, maybe we would’ve worked out. If I was, I probably wouldn’t be here writing you this ridiculous letter on the internet. Maybe our second go around wouldn’t have ended up with us too damn scared to let each other in again. Maybe things wouldn’t have ended with us blankly staring at each other until one of us caved into the “you’re better without me” speech.
So for both of our sakes, I hope she is better in every way for you. But I also secretly hope you won’t be able forget the way I made you feel when we were still so young and in love.

subject line: post-graduate

 
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Philly

I’m done acting like the only heartbreak I’ve suffered is because of men. I’m heartbroken that everywhere I go, people are doing heroin. Out in public. On the street. In the middle of the city, the touristy part. I’m heartbroken that I’ve been looking for a job that will give me benefits since I graduated three years ago, and I can’t find anything that provides benefits and a decent living wage. I’ve been on interview after interview. I’ve applied to job after job. Cover letter after cover letter. I’m heartbroken that people don’t seem to care about facts anymore. When I argue “politics” with people, they shut down when I bring up facts. I’m heartbroken because I’m exhausted after my shifts. My job is physically intense and I’m in a management position. Being in a good position is still barely enough to pay your bills now. I’m heartbroken that I’ve barely tapped into my student loans. For all I know, they’re accumulating faster than I’m paying them and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m heartbroken that my friends are depressed and suicidal because they all have degrees and nothing to do with them. I’m heartbroken my friends have talked about doing cocaine like it’s nothing. Just a party drug. I’m heartbroken that my bosses won’t even try to communicate with their Spanish-speaking workers. I’m heartbroken that they won’t listen to their black workers tell them someone is racist. I’m heartbroken that the company I work for is considered progressive just because we have black workers and Mexican workers. I live my life each day trying to be satisfied. Be grateful. There are just some things you can’t ignore, though. People walk around acting like it’s normal for the middle class to just have their teeth falling out these days. I bet a lot of you can relate to a lot of these things if you’re living in the United States. It isn’t right that talking about this is considered political. This is my everyday. This has nothing to do with politics.

subject line: 2:08 am

 
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emotional limbo

I think you like me better when you’re high.
It’s something in your eyes when you look at me. & the way you laugh harder at my jokes & the closer you sit to me. Your hugs are longer. Your words hold more meaning. You are uninhibited. I like you like that. Half of me wants you to give me that kind of affection without smoking. The other half just thinks, “take what you can get, at least in this state he loves you”.

subject line: also sending this to him

 
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Chi-Town

I feel like I live in the smallest city because I run into you weekly. It seems like every time our interactions are different. It’s like we are strangers trying to read each other. Or like we are both wondering how long we should talk or how small the small talk should be.
I don’t think I ever imagined us being where we are so quickly. It’s like we never went through those 2 years of life together. The unexpected ups that I will remember as what made this city so magical to me. And of course the confusing downs that we swore we would always work through.
We swore we would always work through the downs. Until one day, you decided not to anymore. I don’t get you even though I love you. I don’t think that you get you and that’s why you couldn’t figure out how to truly love me.

subject line: Mom.

 

Oregon

I never knew how big this void was until you told me to leave.
You say you didn’t, but you gave me two choices that both resulted in some kind of unhappiness. It’s been over a year and I’m still stuck. It’s like a never ending spiral that I can’t stop walking through. I wait for you. But you never come.
I want to be loved by you so bad. I want to feel accepted. I want reassurance that I can make it through this.
But you won’t give any of those things to me unless it is followed by policies and conditions, that you’ve made up in your head that make me more acceptable, and more lovable if I follow them.
However, I’m now starting to realize that you slowly stopped giving me these things years ago.

No matter how many good things that happen, I still feel like I’m walking in the middle of the road with cars rushing pass me and everything turns into a blur, and the good things that happen don’t even seem that good anymore because you don’t care about them.
You aren’t happy for. You don’t care like I need you to.
It’s so hard without your help. I didn’t think it would be this hard doing everything by myself. But it is. It’s swallowing me up. How do I stay afloat?

I guess this is really all my fault. I should have been honest with you when you were there for me. I should have told you how I felt, asked questions, done more with you, tried harder to keep a relationship with you.
How could I though. You smothered me when I would try to let you in. You made me hate parts of myself, you made me feel bad about myself for being so sad all the time, like I was this problem that just needed to be fixed as fast as possible.

I don’t understand how I can want you in my life so bad after all you have done to me. After turning me away countless times. But I still do. I want you to be there for me so bad it feels like there’s needles stabbing into my chest.
I wonder if we will ever find a way to make it work. In a way were both so alike. We’re so strong and stubborn, we won’t stop until the other does. Somehow are similarities make it harder for us to be close without hurting each other.
I miss you every day. I think about you every day.

Mom, I love you.
I love you so much that it’s painful.
Maybe one day you will understand why.

subject line: goodnight, I love you.

 

Woodstock, Georgia

Not one date. Two years of on and off seeing each other but not once did I get picked up, car door opened for me, a nice conversation over dinner, and dessert to top the night off. Instead it was late nights in your car and kisses on the lips that had stories to tell but you never even tried to get to know them. But you “loved” me, right? That’s what you said after the night you cussed me out and drove off. What a funny way to show that you love someone. I think that we all so badly want to be loved that we settle for the “goodnight, I love you” texts even if it isn’t love at all.
I know I did.

subject line: but it wasn't love.

 

Greensboro, North Carolina

The way I see it, I never really knew you. I knew what you wanted me to know. That you drink your coffee black. That you wear socks in your sleep. That your dog likes to be fed at 5 in the morning. But you told me once, some blurry night, that you only drank your coffee black because you liked the way the barista looked at you when you ordered. With respect. A little awe. Just barely. Enough to feed your stupid pride. You also said that you didn’t date. Not usually. Not often. Not now. And later that same night, when you clutched onto my wrist and dragged me beneath your sheets for the third time, your stupid million dollar silk sheets, you said, maybe now. With you. Right here. Maybe now I’ll date.

And you did. We did. Of course, we did. You’d never met me before. Wicked smart. Calling your bullshit at 4 a.m. A waistline that let me match you in drinks. It was fun, out every night and wild in bed fun. But then, without either of us begging or asking or even wanting, it was more. It was staring at each other, wondering how the hell we’d gotten here. Tracing the planes of your face. Wishing I could hold on to this forever. This feeling. This person. Just this. But we weren’t forever material - we never had been- and when I caught you dragging down the skirt of some other girl, I wish I could say I was surprised. For a while, you groveled. On your knees. Which was something I never thought I’d see, not in my life. And you said you were sorry and stupid. So, so stupid. And then you said that you loved me. Loved me. That you were in love with me. And God, you almost had me there. I still wonder what might have happened if I’d let my knees buckle the way they so desperately wanted. If I’d let you hold me. Have me. Love me.

You know, if you say a word too much for too long it starts to sound like nothing at all. Love. There, see what I mean? Love love love. Love love. Love. Nothing at all. What we had was something. Something wonderful, maybe. But it wasn’t love. At least, I hope it wasn’t. If that’s what all the fuss is about, count me out.
No. No, that wasn’t love. But damn was it close.