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Why I can’t love you


Illustration by EF — Federica Aglietti

They told me love is a magic spell, and that you get cursed against your will.

A force so powerful it takes your breath, and thoughts, and certainty away.

Then it gifts you with new ones to start living again.

It’s so vast and so beautiful, it hurts like hell.

That’s not true, no one ever told me that.

I’ve read it in books,
heard it in songs,
saw it in people getting lost chasing after that pain.

Like S. — she comes to me in tears.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, but I know.
“What — tell me — what is wrong with me?”

S. tells me she can’t love him, but it’s written all over her face, and the tears, and the pain, that she does so immensely. She is chasing after that something — something that brings so much joy she can’t contain it all. She can’t explain it in words, she can’t even understand it herself, but she can’t let it go either.

“Why — how — can’t you?”

“It’s just a dream — I feel almost like we don’t really exist.”

You can see her brain working even if she’s silent, her gaze down on something that is not really there, that only she can see. She’s trying so hard to find the words — I take it — and I let her.

“Because he fills me up like air at first” she suddenly looks up at me “and leaves me empty a moment later”. She pauses again, thinks about it and changes her mind “No — it’s like I can only breathe when he tells me to. I keep my breath all the time, and just wait”

“Why do you wait?”

“Because I need the air!”

I smile. It all sounds like poetry to me, but she’s devastated. She realises what has just came out of her mouth, and I can see her eyes running from point to point as if she’s looking for something. Like she’s lost what she had seen on the floor a moment ago, and is now desperately trying to find it again.

“It’s just a thrill” she finally speaks, her voice hesitant “I’m sure it was not design to last. I fear we’ll realise it, and feel sorry for ourselves.”

“Or you’ll remember it forever — a sweet memory” I try, but she’s not listening. Or maybe she is, but she needs to ignore me in this moment. I’m aware that whatever I say won’t make her change her mind. I feel she’s telling me this as a way of convincing herself that she’s right — to make it real, to give her spoken words authority on the matter.

“This… thing” she won’t say ‘love’ “is like a ghost. It belongs to a place that is not here, a time that is not now, and never will.”

She can’t love him because of those who would say it’s not real, or that it’s wrong. She can’t because it’s complicated.

She can’t love him — simply, she does.