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Brief History of Unconditional Love: A Confessional photo

Confession 1: You do not understand the lushness of unconditional love because it has never crossed the expanse of your irises. In fact, you think of unconditional love like you think of the Loch Ness Monster. You remain skeptical of its existence.

Confession 2: In the 8th grade, you begin believing in soulmates. On an old TV, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams share a rain-soaked kiss in The Notebook, and you cry profusely as you curl deeper into a musty recliner chair. Your brain tells you “this must be what true love looks like,” and you can’t shake this idea for nearly fifteen years. You tell no one. The bottom of the DVD develops deep scars. You consider Ryan Gosling the ideal man, forgetting that he sheds characters at the end of a long day. What grips your heart is the way he never abandons her, so this becomes your definition of love. But it’s worse because you want to believe that there is a love in which the honeymoon never ends. That there will always be lust, kisses, and a hundred soft butterfly wings in your belly if only you can find the perfect partner. A Noah to your Allie.

Confession 3: You feel like throwing up the first time a shaggy-haired boy says “I love you,” just outside the front door, enveloped in autumn air. Your throat closes when it’s time to say “I love you back” because you’re only fourteen, and these words are heavy. They demolish you like wrecking ball to concrete. You had no idea how much you longed for these words. Anticipation makes your ears ring. Standing on tip-toe, you accept a kiss saturated with hormones.

Confession 4: You’re quick to abandon yourself for a man because it is all you’ve ever known.

Confession 5: In high school, you break the hearts of many boys: ones with skateboards and baggy jeans, a blonde with vampiric teeth, innocent brown-eyes who walks you to the bus stop, the second to ever buy you red roses. Others exist in a guilty haze. You peck at their flesh like a crow tearing away at carrion because you can’t leave until the depth of their guts is exposed – the juicy, dark space they all try to hide. Even when your lips are smeared with blood, you are starving.

Confession 6: The Loch Ness Monster lurks beneath the murkiness of water, hoping never to be discovered.

Confession 7: Your first serious relationship ends in bruises: purple, blue, black, and a few yellowed splotches. Heartbeats trapped in your ears. Throbbing handprints. This is not a metaphor. You can still feel his hands squeezing your windpipe, because he wanted you to just go fucking limp already. Some part of you screams to live, so you beg for breath. Give in to fill your lungs. This moment reinforces your theory that love will always have conditions. Good equals reward. Bad equals finger-shaped bruises.  

Confession 8: Your first semester at community college was supposed to be a fresh start. A chance to get your shit together. Instead, you attend classes stoned and bail on homework for 1970s Disco themed parties, backseat burn cruises, and rock concerts in Chicago. You weren’t going to date. Not for a long time, anyway. But someone introduced you to the second love of your life during Labor Day weekend. Just a small get-together. You chain-smoked on the stoop, shading your eyes from the sun. He looked so cool leaning against a red car that only looked like a Corvette. In the golden sunset, he looked like a celebrity. Untouchable. Too beautiful to view. You do everything in your power to seduce him. Play the role of carrion. Walk coyly into threat. Expose the pale flesh of your throat. Let someone tear at your sinew for once.

Confession 9: The sun betrays you. Like roadkill, it transforms you into leather and rot.

Confession 10: You become lost – inundated with academic jargon and the way he tells you just how fucking awful you are inside and out. How you are always making a damn scene. How no one in their right mind could ever love you. How you are so selfish, despite the way you pray at his altar with salty tears and hoarse throat. He lets you go easily, like a kite string that’s become entangled in the branches of an oak tree. Too much tangle and burden. Amen.

Confession 11: You find another lover who does not love you back. It’s just simulation. Your body is another shiny object. He keeps you in his front pocket where you wait instead of resist. His voice is jazz. A siren call you can’t ignore, no matter the weather, time of day, or if you’re already fast asleep.

Confession 12: For protection, the Loch Ness Monster refuses to reveal herself. No calls, songs, or even the temptation of gossip can lure her above water. Or maybe the water causes her deafness.

Confession 13: You get angry when friends mention the phrase booty call, as if it were your true name. You don’t tell them that you’re a one-woman disappearing act. Refuse to sleep at his house. Wait until he is asleep before leaving. Crave the light bouncing off his eyelashes. Silently make your way down the staircase in the dark. Quieter still when you drive back to your apartment without talk radio or heat. Just the flick of a lighter and one headlight out. Damnit, where is my rain-soaked kiss? As if you’ve simply misplaced it. In every 1:30am shower, soap mixes with shame while scrubbing the smell of his shampoo from your skin and sex-tousled hair. But it’s a smell you adore so much that you wish you never had to shower. The smell reminds you of the softness of Christmas lights and saturates the flat pillow that holds your head as he moves above you. As you graze your fingers along his back. How each time you’re naked in his bed, staring into his sleepy eyes, you are so desperate to say I love you that it hurts. But the words are burned by bile in your throat because you know he does not love you back. That part of him was already eaten.

Confession 14: Two years after deciding not to go down those stairs anymore, you find yourself at a midnight traffic light. As the glow changes from red to green, an epiphany develops in the dark: despite endless fantasies of white gowns, champagne, and teary-eyed vows, you are too afraid to get married.

Confession 15: All of these men exist in your body. Fight for space until you are small. Put out cigarettes on your vital organs. Talk through you like demonic possession. Move limbs as if you are a limp puppet.

Confession 16: How can you believe in something that can’t be seen? It’s just a myth, like magicians performing a series of illusions.