It’s funny how the same sentences can mean more or less depending on the mouth they come from. You used to repeat such endangered phrases like religious psalms, without a trace of hesitation to be found in your low voice. They fell on deaf ears, but the fire in your eyes burned my disbelief to cinders, time and time again without fail.

I remember when you patiently hummed the words into my dark hair, brushing strands aside to kiss them around the perimeter of my neck until I could swallow them myself. But unlike you, his impatience sparked in the darkness—shortcut repetition as convincing as my past attempts to forge my father’s signature and the childhood games of make-believe that I have long outgrown.

When he told me I was pretty, I could only feel far from it. He mistook his own suggestiveness for a greeting: desperation bled profusely from his forged smile, robbing his heart of every ounce of gold that remained. Sown into the back of his throat was a cassette that rewound itself for every girl he’d catch in conversation; these sweet nothings were not tailored specifically for me.

All he wanted was to get in between my legs.

I could do nothing but laugh at the realization. The signature gut reaction to feeling uncomfortable. No slice of birthday cake could compensate for reaching the age of lewd male fantasties. It’s kind of funny though—I was once a twisted child that thought this was something to be desired. I needed the validation of the opposite sex to make me believe that I could possibly be viewed as attractive to someone else, or at the very least, someone who was good enough.

While I certainly don’t think of myself as particularly valuable, I’m not about to jump into the any pair of arms that’ll take me. I’m not a girl you can win over with alphabetical arrangements alone. I don’t submerge myself in empty words or made up promises you’ll never keep. I believe in action. I believe the late night phone calls and the arms wrapped around my waist. I believe the polite opening of doors and nameless, shameless expression. I believe the funny movie conversation-commentary louder than the the film audio itself, coupled with the cuddles cut short when the echo of my mother’s footsteps flitted down the stairs.

You have set the bar high. So high, in fact, that some days I worry that it’ll never be reached again. You were the only person who ever made me feel like I was authentically, wholly loved. He shouldn’t dare praise me with the insincere and reusable flattering remarks. He believes that maybe, someday, he’ll jump high enough to reach me, even with this fingertips. But I refuse to be his side chick, his backup plan, and his “if I have free time” when I was your babydoll, your everything, and your “I will always love you, and that’ll never change.”