I awake to find myself on her couch in her basement. She’s in my arms, snuggled close to me in that post-hook-up embrace that seems to define our second attempt at dating. I know she usually has trouble sleeping so I don’t want to disturb her. I am, however, incredibly uncomfortable. I can’t feel my right arm, and I think my spine is twisted in seven different places. I work on trying to get myself out of this position without waking her.

This moment has all of the intensity of a spy caper movie. I’m slowly shifting my weight, making calculated moves to allow myself off of this couch with minimal disruption to her slumber. I lift sore limbs and ease myself ever carefully onto the floor below, essentially falling in slow motion. After what seems like an eternity I am now free.

I don’t want to leave without saying goodbye, so I sit on the other end of the couch. I start to check my phone. Soon enough she half-wakes from her nap. She shifts position and places her head in my lap.

“I love you,” she sighs, barely conscious, and this is where this writing project falls apart a little.

The dramatic tension that defined the summer of our second relationship was the fact that she loved me more than I loved her. I was still working through the fuck-awful mess that was our first breakup and the state in which it left me. I cared about her, sure, but I didn’t want to use the word “love” until I was certain I meant it. In the meantime, though, it felt like I was just using her for sex. It felt, overwhelmingly, like I was just using her to fill in the gap of intimacy that she defined during the first time we dated (and that I failed to find anyone to fill during the past two years). The thing is, I already worked through these conflicting feelings years ago. More importantly, placed within the context of our third relationship this internal conflict doesn’t mean shit. I know that I came to love her again. I know that I soon fell for her as hard as I fell for her the first time I met her. Writing about how “difficult” it was to reconcile the imbalance in our second relationship feels disingenuous when I know the scales soon adjusted and then overshot. If I could do it all again, I would — without a second thought — be so much more caring and loving.

I stroke her hair but say nothing. It’s the right thing to do when saying, “I love you, too,” feels dishonest.

Way It Was is a writing project and ongoing attempt to work through a lot of relationship related shit. Find out more about it here.

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