I have told you my secret a hundred times over. In the darkest nights, when the voices in my head have spun and twirled into a nauseating dance, my secret whipping around them like ribbons coming undone from their dresses, I tell you.
I rub my fingers across your back, watch as your eyes close and that smile I look for every day reaches your lips. Slowly, I write little words, scribble each letter of the alphabet with looping curves and incoherent lines. It is clear that you are so stuck in your own head to feel the weight of my words, scrawled across your flesh in tiny chicken scratch.
That was the first time I told you I loved you.
As the weeks wore on I became bolder, three words morphing into paragraphs, novels of secrets that scrape the inside of my thoughts and clog my speech. Words that I cannot say fall out of me and onto your back, my own smooth canvas, and your skin soaks them up. Yet still you remain naïve to my thoughts.
“Let’s play that game where we write on each other and try to guess what we are saying,” you says to me one night. My heart stops. Do you know about my book in progress, written in invisible ink across your skin? I write “dork” on your back, in print, so you can’t match my cursive to your new game. You turn me over, draw a penis and write, “suck it”. It’s safe to say my secrets are safe.
After a while my written words just aren't enough. Every time I write, “I love you” I swallow it down, gulp it like bile, ashamed of what I am thinking. I search for a way to spit it out, for some reason the taste of it not settling well on my tongue.
You watch me struggle with feelings that I want to vomit all over you, yet make no attempt to figure out what is wrong. I've practice what I want to say across your shoulders, down your arms and up the inside of your ribcage; I love you. Instead I whisper, “Do you know how Helga felt about Arnold in Hey Arnold? That big word that she couldn’t tell him.”
Your eyes open wide, panic for an instant and then you smile. My stomach unclenches and I think I might finally feel relief from revealing my secret to you.
“I really like you too.” You kiss my forehead and ask me to rub your back while my entire world some shattering around me. I can not breathe and this time I actually have to choke down the sick that threatens to come up.
But I love you, I write, one last time across your back, in clear print.