The Things I Do Not Know

Recently, a boy told me that he loved astronomy. He told me that he loved it so much he could never be an astronomer. When I asked him what he meant, he said that when love becomes work it ceases to be love, and I said no. And I said he was wrong. I said that we could not love something without working for it because love takes work. Love is work. I told him that the things we love are not defined by our passivity for them. Rather, they are defined by our willingness to never give up on them, and not giving up on something or someone takes work. I told him that love takes work because when we love something, we love in spite of how hard we work for it. He told me, “save it for another time.”

And when this boy left, I wondered when that time would be. I wondered if maybe that time had already come, if maybe I had already missed it. I wondered if I should have saved it for the times my mother screamed her love so loudly that I hid in my bathroom, crouched behind a barricaded, locked door. Maybe I should have saved it for the times she whispered her hate so softly, so skillfully, that it crept beneath my skin and made a home within my blood until I cleansed my own body with the razor blades I’d hidden in my bottom desk drawer. I wondered if I should have saved it for the time I told my father, “Daddy, she makes me feel like I should die,” and he only said, “I know.”

I wondered, did my mother mean to hurt me with her love? Did my father mean to silence me with his? And what of this boy? Should I have saved it for the time he growled, “shut up” as he crushed his lips into mine? Or maybe I should have saved it for the time we made love on his bed, and I wondered, “Why do they call this making love when it only makes me want to cry?” Boy, don’t you see? I cannot save it for those times. Those times are gone like the oxygen in space.

And so, I must save it for this time. I save it for this day, for this morning, and for this body that lies alone in my bed thinking that when I told this boy “you don’t know what love means,” I should have said, “please show me how love feels.”