Words. We incessantly nitpick them. We assess the tone, the timing, the inflection in efforts to understand each other, convinced that the substance of our intentions is disguised among the syllables. We adhere to a phrase we can’t decipher, rolling it over our tongues again and again. The answers must be in there.

Maybe this why I am so haunted by all he did not say, perpetually grasping to fill in the gaps of all I still fail to understand about him, about the decline of a love that once seemed so tender: instead of a single garish flaw to dissect, there are a multitude to consider, discard, consider again, agonize over… The guesswork is exhausting.

Did I imagine it all?  Or interpret trifles as something more? Did I make the mistake of my life and build a passion out of a repartee?

I asked. I asked him as our words waned, as our touches withdrew. I asked him at the end, when the silence had become a canyon. He remained silent.

And somewhere in the silence, he lost me.

The fatigue of second-guessing myself finally conquered my ardent romanticism. The ever increasing silence only made sense when I retreated into the hollow of a shell, built a wall to keep out the sound of anything but my own footsteps.

Occasionally, a brick falls. And in the sharp stillness that follows I hear the old, familiar refrain: I love you, I love you, I love you. But it has been so long now, so long since he has said the words – and the voice begins to sound more like my own. Am I still talking?

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