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420 Times

Dear management,

I fear the day will come when you will tire of my inability to properly express myself verbally and my need to resort to letters such as this to properly lay it all out. I’d like to claim that it isn’t my fault that I am this way, that it isn’t for the lack of trying, but in truth, I am an adult now and a little more effort will go a long way in sorting it out. I promise to try harder… after this one time though… Yeah? Okay, thank you.

Now, it goes without saying that we have a beyond amazing relationship. And perhaps one of the reasons we have thrived together is that our roles have always been so properly defined. Without ever saying it out loud, we each assumed some roles and left some to the other. I the planner and you the spontaneous one. You the believer in the unseen, the one with faith, and I the one who needs to see to believe. I the calm to your chaos and you the chaos to my calm. You the better handler of all unforeseen circumstances and I the crumbler (is that a word? It really should be) in the face of such.

But we never have had issues letting each other assume the other’s roles when needs be. So tell me why that wasn’t the case a few days ago. I have always been the worrier of the relationship, the one who thinks about what and how it could go wrong, the one who gives meaning to the little things that perhaps do not merit it. And so the other day when you worried and said, “Could it be that a day arrives when we say “I love you” for the sake of saying it, when we say it to cover up what does not exist anymore?” I felt betrayed. I felt you had unfairly taken my role and pushed me into one I have never been trained for. For a second, I could not feel my pulse and my breath stilled. My immediate thought was to be defensive, to ask how you could even entertain the thought of such a day ever awaiting us, how you could harbor such negative thoughts when we have always emphasized positivity. But the logical half of me knew from whence all this stemmed, knew that you were just being the worrier and only needed reassurance.

Did you know that in the last month alone, we said “I love you” 420 times on Whatsapp? That’s at least 14 times a day, both a heartwarming and a worrying feat. Heartwarming because ever since we started out, we never have been the couple that shies away from openly displaying our affection for one another, both in speech and in deeds. We have never been afraid of “showing too much” or looking desperate, of loving too hard and risking it failing. We have never been calculating of how much we give out, never measured or quantified love, fearing that this might not work. We have always gone all out, something that has always favored me because I do not know how to half-arse anything, how to not go full in. And perhaps 420 times a month is but an adequate reflection of that.

But it is, to me at least, also a worrying feat because what if “I love you” becomes like a song whose lyrics we blurt out on impulse, never giving it much thought? What if it becomes one of those meaningless phrases, an automated response like “I’m fine thank you, and yourself?” that hangs around on our lips, ready to go when the right trigger comes? What if it becomes one of those statements that we become so accustomed to hearing that its significance is lost on us? What if it becomes like a fire alarm that goes off too often and it no longer elicits a reaction, no longer moves us? What if it becomes one of those things we say to fill a void, to bridge empty spaces? What if it becomes like tape to cover up the cracks? What if it loses its potency? What if we become too familiar with it?

Remember the first time you said it to me? (And yes, you said it first) We had been teasing each other about it for weeks, talking about how unprepared we were for it, how we’d freak out if it ever surfaced. That night at the end of our now routine phone call, you said it as a joke through fits of laughter, knowing what my reaction would be. But it was as though you realized halfway through that it wasn’t a joke, that it was something you felt. And so you said it again, a more serious, somber tone, slow and hesitant as though it had just then dawned on you. Remember how I did not immediately say it back, how I went, “Are you being serious?” instead? How I told you that I did not want to say it back just because you did?

Remember the first time I said it to you, sat in the little dorm room you shared with your friend? You sat on my lap, your knees folded on your sides in that way I thought made you uncomfortable but you liked anyway. Remember how I told you that before then I did not really know what romantic love meant nor what it meant to love someone in that sense, that I had never experienced it so as to have a comprehensive definition of what it meant to me? Remember how I then told you that nothing ever felt too much to do for you, that to drop the entire world for you, to put everything and everyone aside for you was, to me, as natural a response as blinking; that my life so spontaneously took a you-sized-shape, that if ever needs be, I could easily put you before myself; that I saw your flaws and all the things you were bad at, all the things you could not offer me and all your shortcomings and yet you still seemed like my God-sent, like my person person; that I saw what you could pan out to be beyond what you were, beyond what I wanted you to be; that it did not matter what you did or who you were on the day, I’d still choose you? Remember how I then said to you that Ma had told me there could not be a better definition of loving someone beyond this, that she felt towards me what I had just described feeling towards you? Remember how I then said perhaps I knew it all along, but I was too afraid to say it out loud, how I then went, “I love you,” slow and hesitant, enunciating each vow while avoiding your eyes the way I do when I am shy? Remember all that?

Well, every time I say, “I love you”, it’s as though I was saying it for the first time all over again. It is slow and hesitant, shy and almost uncertain. And that isn’t because I am not sure, not because I have my doubts, but because my “I love you” does not lay in wait of the tip of my tongue. It does not sit on the back of my throat, waiting to skip out as a reflex. It is not lighthearted nor witty. It is not intended to make conversation nor to fill in empty spaces. It serves no other purpose bar its own. It is neither superficial nor just words. Mine is an “I love you” that hides deep in the chambers of my heart and refuses to come out of its habitant on impulse. Mine is one that is well thought out, a logical one, one based on the truth of the moment. Mine is deep rooted, one that searches for what lies within before ever coming out. My “I love you” is intentional and can only ever be that; it is said on and with purpose. My “I love you” is loaded and heavy, carrying the weight of what it means to love you, echoing everything that no other 3 words can. My “I love you” is born only of a soul-search and can only springboard off of that, can only reflect what really exists deep down. My “I love you” is certain, is sure of itself.

So, to answer your question, no. No, I will never say it just for the sake of it. The day I will say it for the billionth time, I will mean it as much as I did the first. I will never say it out of habit or routine. Every time I tell you I love you is a reminder that that much is true, that if all else is a lie, this is one truth you can hold on to. I will never say it without meaning it. To the limits of whatever I now know love to be, what I am learning it to be and beyond, I do love you and I have purposed to always do so. I will never say it to fill voids or paper over the cracks. It cannot serve that purpose; without the load that is meant to carry, it is just words, just a statement. God-forbid I ever utter it as such. I will never say it without thought or ponder, without certainty.

And I will never say it unintentionally. I do now and have always loved you on purpose. I did not accidentally stumble upon the fact. I did not one day wake up and suddenly realize that I did. I had a choice. I saw you for what you were then, saw the real you and realized how lovely it would be to love you. And I chose to do so. And I was right: it is lovely to love you, so lovely that I willfully choose to do so over and over again. I always will. And so mine is an “I love you” that will reflect that: a choice.

If ever the day comes that I do not feel it, I will not say it to you anymore. Is that a comprehensive enough answer? Do you reckon that day will ever come?



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