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There are two ways into someone’s heart; one leads us there through the validation of time, the other through darkened tunnels of addiction and infatuation. One is earned, the other is a trick, but by random universal symmetry both routes lead to the same place: the feeling that something is missing.

I think about the feasibility of this, whilst cradling my tea with the same fragility I would a new-born kitten. I think about my heart and the pockmarks and stains that now decorate it; the scars its earned from years of enthusiastically handing it around. The trials of time have weakened its walls, seeing it passed back to me in a worse condition. There have been many names doodled on it throughout my life, with the latest always standing out in bold – yours.

I didn’t want to love you then, and I still don’t want to love you now. I’ve moved on; accepted that we were finite and made peace with our relationship’s sad trajectory. Then we spoke again, recently, before drunkenly tumbling in mistakes we promised wouldn’t happen again. Yet they did, and it felt like you’d hadn’t been absent for months. But with the return of you is the return of memory, and in that memory there is too much hurt.

I sit and dismantle that memory, brick-by-boring-brick. I imagine rebuilding it, recreating us, but this time miles away. I imagine, once its rebuilt, all the ways that I could have kept you. I could move in when you weren’t looking, barricade myself inside your life and just wait for you to come home. I’d be sitting cross-legged on the floor, and wordlessly I’d welcome you, my grasp of your language so delicate that my voice threatened to break. You’d fold yourself into my lap and there we’d stay, fingers intertwined, our worlds merging. I’d whisper, ‘I love you’ just one more time.  My words would hang in the air, consequence waiting to descend upon me. I know this emotion well: the uneasy silence of unrequited love. But in this new life I’d built you’d say it back and I could finally breathe again.

But reality comes like the onset of a flu, and a sickly sensation snatches away that possibility. It doesn’t work like that – it didn’t work like that – I know it couldn’t work like that. So why am I still holding onto something that leads me by the hand to tears?

Every time I look at you or even hear someone say your name, I feel an ominous rot in the pit of my stomach. I’m just waiting to hear that you’ve moved on, or for news of your sex life to be dropped into casual conversation. I sit anxiously trying to cram myself into every form of silence possible. I don’t want to speak up about you, but I find it impossible to stop the words escaping from the dungeon of my mouth. I have a seemingly unlimited wealth of annoying defences for your actions and antics. My friends want to know why I still care; why I still come to your aid like a prince in a fairy-tale – but I always know why.

I recognise in you something I was denied when I was younger; a love that wasn’t mine, an opportunity I wasn’t able to take.  You are everything now that I wish I was then. That’s why I wanted to keep you; to finally get the chance to rewrite that story. I wanted to live through you the life I couldn’t when I was younger. I wanted to be loved now because I wasn’t then. It wasn’t so long ago that it’s seen as history, but the differences in time and our ages made it feel like we were centuries apart.

Today, I miss you in every way. I miss you swinging between belittlement and sugary praise; the way you kept me weak and dependent, like all young drugs do. I miss holding you. I miss kissing you. I miss how loose my sweater was hanging over your tiny frame. Every time I see your face, I imagine your heart, paler than its usual pale, missing beats, missing us, missing me.

We were almost content, finally. Two princes, kingdoms apart, trying their hardest to ignore disaster. The people around us said we were doomed from the start, so we kept every touch a secret. And through hidden tunnels you found your way into my heart; but you were too young and I was too bold; what I wanted you simply didn’t know how to give. Now I navigate cautiously around our wreckage, looking for pieces of a crown that didn’t fit.

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