Secret ways to say I love you/A man starts to look like a question mark

Elisabeth Moss
April 12, 2023

Secret ways to say I love you–

Take me to the pumpkin patch on the onset of the tenth month, when the bluebirds pepper the sunsets in cursive lines. Offer me an overpriced apple cider with the crumpled bill in your pocket and we’ll dance in between Johnathon trees. Listen to the corn husks rattle and squeeze my hand in the silence to remind me you’re there. You mourn the foretaste of winter with its shortened days and clouded horizons, but I don’t. So today you don’t either.

Drive me through the city at the end of a long day; you won’t worry about wasting gas. Hand me the aux and rest your hand out the window, grinning as I drum on the glovebox in your peripherals. Park at the highest point in town and lean on my sweater as I point to the tiny red-white orbs of places we’ve once been. Traffic makes you anxious and you don’t like my music, but today you don’t mind either.

Dance with me in the living room when the night is blackest and moths beat against the porch light. We’ll trip on each other’s shoes in three-quarters time and mouth the words to “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” Stare into my eyes in between songs with your dilated pupils and pursed smile that tell me everything I need to know. You’re not a dancer, and you like to keep quiet for the renters, but today you don’t care about either of those things.

A man starts to look like a question mark

when he tosses about future tense words in casual conversation. “After college we could–” (I haven’t thought about tomorrow.) “Our kids could read–” (My mind cannot carry the hypothetical weight of myself as a mother.) “I can see us down the road–” (But what about today?) I carry the infinite possibilities of the unknown like bricks in my backpack; he lets them glide into the air like feathers. He sees me as a future spouse; I see him as my current best friend. “How would you feel about getting married right out of school?” (How do I know I will still want to marry you?) He’s “dating for marriage” on the first date, and I can never decide what ice cream flavor I want. When one brings up those non-reversible decisions that you will live out each day of your remaining life, I cannot feel the carefree comfort I used to. I am less jovial, more practical, more prone to plan around the future. His eyes are not a beacon of light but a reminder of the inevitability of aging. I feel old looking at him. He is the looming face of my future. He is no longer a best friend; he’s a question mark.

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