The first time I said, "I love you," That wasn't to my mom or grandmother I was sitting on my dad's kitchen floor, In front of his kitchen sink, hugging My knees to my chest as I poured my heart Out to a girl I had only been dating for two weeks. It was the kind of love that pulled at the heart strings, Pulling them so hard my heart fell out of my body and Dragged me until I was on the floor, at her feet And staring into her eyes, sheepishly picking My heart up off the ground and holding It out, still beating in my palm. The kind of love that swirled around us in a cloud, Nothing else mattered, not the moon nor the tide, She was my world and for a split second everything Seemed right and she could do no wrong, I whispered the words with all the bravery of An optimistic soldier who believes, good will overcome. "I love you," it was not beating around the bush, These words I wore proudly on my sleeve, Even if I was met with silence. Somehow I just knew she loved me back. I was right, She repeated the statement back and my heart kept beating, that day. It was the kind of love that was toxic and beautiful, Always kept us running and running, Until we both lost the tread on our sneakers and tripped Into our own demise, foolishly believing love conquers all But not working on the problems as they came up, Just trying to pretend, our high school love could survive. The last time I said I love you too her, I was standing at the top of her stairs, holding a bag of my clothes, And begging with my eyes for her to say it back, "I love you," my voice was just as brave as it was that day Years earlier when we believed we would Beat the odds of young love. She looked at me, and handed me my heart back. The strings all neatly folded and ready to Go back into my chest, no more tugging or pulling. No more laying at her feet, holding it up. Instead I stood across from her, with all the sadness in the world, Took my heart, and put it back. No statement, no reply. She handed me my heart. I turned and walked away, my heart still beating loudly Inside of my chest, for lost love, for gained perspective. I walked down those stairs, and into a new future With my heart on my sleeve, And my memories locked away, in my chest.