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A True (Non-Hierarchical, Shared) Love

Mithila Phadke | Longreads | May 2018 | 14 minutes (3,006 words)

 

I sit in front of Cory the day after his birthday dinner, slightly hungover and jittery. I anxiously rip a paper napkin into many tiny shreds, stumbling through a speech about having needed to tell him something for weeks now. I do not need him to feel or say it back, I swear. I don’t want to make things awkward. I just desperately need the words to be out there, out of me.

I take a deep breath and sigh.

“I love you,” I say. There. It’s out there.

I’ve destroyed everything. I know it. I nervously chatter right on, concentrating again on the paper napkin, assuring him that this changes nothing and that it’s entirely my “hassle” to deal with. Finally, I’m done. I look up.

He’s smiling.

“I love you too,” he says.

Oh.

I’ve agonized over this for weeks. And now it’s…done? Just like that.

It seems perfect, that moment, as he holds me close, the two of us burrowing happily into the wondrous, downy softness of reciprocated love. The rest of the week, I’ll go about my day with staggeringly corny Bollywood songs playing on loop in my head. It’s perhaps the closest I’ve felt to floating up and away.

A few hours later, Cory tenderly kisses me goodbye and walks out into the warm Beijing evening. He heads home to his live-in girlfriend, who he is also very much in love with. As he is with his wife, who’s away in New York, in another steady relationship of her own.

Since I moved to Beijing last year, eating duck feet had, for the longest time, been the most unexpected experience my new home brought me. Then I go and fall in love with a polyamorous man.

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