Great Expectations | Jilly Ballantyne
He looks to me and our eyes meet across the room as he smirks. I’m helpless to his gaze, falling deeper and deeper in love with him and everything about him. Even the things I don’t like.
He talks when he eats - not in a disgusting way - but just because he’s so keen to keep up with our conversation about my day. He’s never late. Well, sometimes he is but he apologises so profusely that I forget about all the times that he doesn’t show up as expected.
We don’t like all of the same things, but he laughs at my bad jokes and pretends to be interested when I talk about the latest drama in my work group chat. He occasionally chimes in with an, ‘and what did you say?’ and makes me feel like what I’m saying is the most important thing to him in the world at that one given moment.
He cries when I cry. Not just because he’s upset with me, but because he possesses a complete circumference of empathy that makes him all the more loveable. I feel listened to, cared for and alive even on my darkest days.
He asks me how I am, and how I’m feeling. There’s never any pressure to do things I don’t want to and he fully acknowledges that sometimes I’m emotionally unavailable because of my past. We don’t talk about it unless I want to, and when I do he listens. He nods. He says nothing. He is there.
We take long drives on the weekend and I make playlists to keep us company, even though we’re more than happy with just each other. He’s a bad driver, but he knows it and tries his hardest to change his ways when I’m in the car. He fails, but it’s the thought that counts.
He hates my music taste. It’s not ‘real music’, but he lets me play it around the flat when I get ready regardless. We call it compromise since he gets to choose what we have for dinner that night. I call it a victory for myself and Doja Cat.
He pretends to not know my friends names because he knows it annoys me. He’ll ask me which one I’m talking about five minutes into a conversation, just so I’ll have to roll my eyes and say, ‘You know who I mean!’
He talks about me to his friends. He isn’t embarrassed to be with me. He doesn’t post about us often on social media, but every so often he’ll upload an unexpected candid picture of us and I’ll make it my screensaver. He counts the freckles on my face and tells me when I have food in my teeth.
He knows my favourite song and lets me listen to it on repeat while singing along tunelessly, tapping his hand along to the beat. He tells me that everything is okay even when it isn’t and he tries to make me see my greatness instead of my weaknesses.
My friends tell me how lucky I am, that I was right to wait to get into a relationship because look at what I ended up with. They listen to me when I moan about him leaving all the lights in, not doing his dishes, or turning off the TV at night when he knows I need it on to fall asleep. They tell me that we love each other and that every couple fights. It would be weird if we didn’t.
And, when we do fight, all hell breaks loose. I throw things, he dodges them. He slams doors and I follow him into every room, determined to have the last word. I scream and cry, and he shouts and tells me how ridiculous I’m being. I bring up everything he has ever done wrong in the world and he takes it all.
When we’re done, he knocks on the bedroom door and asks me if I’m ready to talk. He knows it isn’t him I’m angry at, I’m just frustrated at so many little things that build to a crescendo in the world we live in. He holds me and tells me it isn’t my fault. He turns off all the lights, takes our mugs through to the kitchen to wash and makes sure to have the TV playing as I fall asleep.
He always walks alongside me, even though I walk slowly and constantly get distracted by every window on every street. He doesn’t always hold my hand, but when he does he squeezes it tightly to remind me that he’s there. And he is there. Always and forever. Till death do us part.
When he smiles, it’s like I know
I’m awake and realise that I’m alone. My flat is empty and my wardrobe only houses my clothes. There’s only one toothbrush in the bathroom and only my shoes clutter the rack by the door. I want it, all of it. It doesn’t matter who he is, it’s the feeling of love and hope and prosperity I long for. I am alone, but I’m too scared of commitment and of love to do anything about it.