The air seemed to warp around us, a quick snap like the tip of a bullwhip, my misplaced I love you not just an audible phenomenon but something seen, a wave, a blip, and we paused there he and I, me sitting in my car, him teetering there on his terrible knees in the gravel. And then he turned, pivoted really which I imagine must have hurt. So I started my car and drove away slowly, backed away really but in Drive going forward.
Bye, I love you. I love you, good night. 'Mkay, I love you. I am an automatic I love you-er, saying it countless times during the day to my parents, to Bryan; I practically speak in I love you's to Zoey. (If I said I love you? in a certain tone she would totally know that what I was asking is if she wanted a pb&j.) It has become a salutation, an acknowledgment, a sign off, a disfluency in the pattern of my speech, like um or uh, well, yeah. Because I do: love them when I see them, when I leave, love them in between bites of a sandwich.
Then the other day as I was talking to my friend Erin I said it again. Talk to you later, bye, I love you. Only she is not my mom or my dad, not Bryan, not Zoey, and so we both giggled and I said sorry and we hung up.
Which got me thinking: Why did I giggle? Apologize? I have known her forever, she is a good friend and here's the thing--I do love her. Why does it feel so funny to say that?
I have another friend, let's call her Rosalie because that is her name. And I hope she doesn't mind me outing her but she is an I love you-er of friends. Good seeing you, she says, I love you, the differences in our upbringings forever apparent in the way we hug each other good bye. (I am an uptight WASP, no matter the fact that my parents moved to San Francisco in 1971.) And so the words stand out to me when said by a friend, hangs there in space, kind of like when you get one of those floaters in your eye? And it's there all fuzzy like a thread somewhere in your periphery, maybe you keep darting your eye over to look at it but then it's gone. I love you. Only I want to see it because I know it's there, something refractive in my eye's vitreous humor. (No giggling.) I love you. I think I'm going to start saying it to my friends. Or at the very least start with baby steps by writing it first. I love you. Erin, Rosalie. Amber, Ana, Chree. You are all fabulous friends and awesome women. Oh god, did I forget anyone? Because what could be wrong with saying I love you? As many types of love as there are hellos and goodbyes. I love you, really, I do. All of you. Except maybe not the mechanic, that was an accident. Although I am sure he is a fine man, keeps his plants watered and remembers his grandchildren's birthdays, I do not love him. (Yet.)