Something changed with time. The more years passed by, the more protective I became of the dreaded three-word phrase. I had been too casual with it. I’d meet someone, spend six days with them, and tell them I loved them. I earned quite a reputation for it, too, for I often dove into it. I wonder if that was because I was too afraid to be alone. That couldn’t be it, though; I had always been alone. Even around other people, especially when I loved them.
I wore my heart on my sleeve, and my declaration of love came out faster than an old cowboy’s gun. In my head, it was always a duel of who could say it first, who was more open to the idea, who was less broken, and I wanted to be just that. I wanted to be the one who isn’t afraid. It was a personal victory in a lot of ways. “”Look, I can still love someone!”” I wonder if it was about the other person at all. I doubt it was; it was always about myself.
I liked being unafraid to love someone, unafraid of jumping into lashing waves, and saying it out loud was almost always the first step. At least, in my juvenile head. The last time I said those exact three words in the precise order was years ago, though. I realise now that you can’t be too casual about it. The phrase is somewhat taboo now; I steer clear of it. I realise that while wearing your heart on your sleeve is a powerful feeling, it also gets difficult to offer it each time it’s returned to you. There are only so many times you’re okay throwing it away.
When your heart was returned to you more times than you could smile while accepting the fragments, you got careful with it. Perhaps, too careful. I was overly cautious now. So, I opted for softer things to say instead. You could say anything and mean the same thing. As long as you didn’t use the words, you weren’t jumping in. That meant, you couldn’t drown.
Yet, I often wonder if I’ll ever use that dreaded three-word phrase again. Perhaps, when is a better question. All things considered, my heart was still on my sleeve. Perhaps, it’ll be the day when it isn’t about myself anymore. I think that’s as good an answer as any. Until then, however, I wasn’t going to muddy the waters.
It was safer on the shore.