I know you notice when I can’t look you in the eye, when I act coy and giggly.
It’s cute, no?
Nice, but not exactly on-brand.
I wish I could stop.
I wish I could safely say,
“You just give me butterflies!”
Because that’s much nicer than the reality.
In truth it’s not butterflies,
It’s a swarm of sickly gnats gnawing at my stomach lining,
prodding me to vomit or keep my abs clenched tight, all night, my shoulders close to my ears, so that I feel sick and sad in the morning and must rush home to curl up and be numb.
In truth it’s bees behind my eyes, buzzing incessantly in my head.
So loud that I cannot hear when you say you want to be with me, that you want me there.
So loud that I do not hear myself think, “stop this, you’re safe. He’s safe to be around.”
So loud that these precious hours I so look forward to spending with you are drowned out by an internal static droning.
In truth it’s not butterflies, it’s more like a spider has stretched its web across the inside of my rib cage (spiders are ambush predators, you see).
It waits for any movement, a sign for what to do next, it stays in fight or flight, ready to attack, or run.
It collects information: movements, songs, likes and dislikes, what makes you mad, sad, angry, or insecure. It remembers the little things.
Romantic, isn’t it?
To remember the little things.
I must really have a crush on you.
I don’t believe it has anything to do with years of training.
I don’t think it comes from needing to remember every little detail of someone else’s behavior for my own survival.
But, of course it does.
I possess fantastic powers of observation birthed from the dark necessity of honing this practice for physical and mental safety while enduring abuse.
So in the end, I guess you probably do give me butterflies, there are just others at play as well.
I feel the gentle butterflies of gratitude that we get to spend time together, that we somehow exist at the same time in the same place. I also feel the chewing gnats, the sting of the bees behind my eyes, and the delicate, waiting web strung across my chest.
I must be my own exterminator and stop playing host to this myriad of parasites that have taken up residence inside my body. But this isn’t possible, because they aren’t leaving.
It’s either that or let the insects overcome every piece of me, and slowly lay down for my body to rot and decay in the tall grass. Only then can we be sure if there were butterflies inside at all.
One last option, that I’m desperately trying to understand how to do, is to care for and calm these creatures that are all doing their job of protecting me correctly, but at the incorrect times. Maybe if I can make peace with their frantic wriggling and buzzing, I’ll be able to feel when butterflies are present.