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Tender

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

I. Old Love


Love was a bitter pill shoved down my throat that my mother made me wash down with bile. She vehemently denies it now, but her words are empty air when the weight of her actions drive home the familiar damning declaration: love is sacrifice.


It should have been no surprise when I broke at the inflexibility of my butterfly bones—twisting and turning at the whims of my first love. My mother was, nevertheless, surprised, but in her surprise was anger. So I cut myself on her jagged edges.


My first lover was a sad girl, ribcage hollowed out to feeble heartbeat like the guts she spilled to fit into that damn cheerleader uniform. I don’t go to football games.


She took me to my first concert, screaming the lyrics to a love song I don’t have the heart to forget at the teenage boys on stage as I held her limp palm in my hand. I looked at her and thought I loved her, but those dark eyes were never really looking at me.


I was always holding on, chasing those limp fingers that never held mine. Every night she’d lie and say it was her last, and I’d lie, too, lie awake, begging her to stay. I’d make her feel okay as if I wasn’t hanging on by a thread: untouched pills and unsharpened pencils.


I listened to her like gospel, on my knees every night. I’d prove my love, etch her name into my skin so she could be a part of me as much as I already felt she was. When she said it wasn’t enough, I’d make it enough: I’d wring myself inside out and carve and carve until the only thing I was, was hers.


And when that didn’t satisfy her, she told me I was nothing.


Maybe that’s why I laugh when you tell me I’m everything.


II. The Sex


It’s easy to exist as just a mind without a body. Then I can exist without the feeling of her touch on my skin. A thousand hands could touch this body, and I would not feel the dirt embedded in its bones.


III. New Love


My friends thought it was funny: the thought that somehow I could fuck you into feeling what I felt. I laughed with them, but I was serious. I don’t believe in the words “I love you”. There aren’t words big enough to capture how I feel. Sex makes me feel like the lines are blurred—you’re crawling under my skin, plucking my heart from its cage. It’s easy to feel like you’re a part of me. But maybe I should say that I’m a part of you. I feel hollowed out of all the things that make me a part of this body when you look into its eyes, your pupils blown black with want. I feel you seep into the spaces where I’m nothing, and you make me something. It’s a familiar feeling when I let you consume me—when I let myself become a part of you. It’s easy to drown in your kind green eyes, melt right into the swell of your breast… I ache for the parasitical feeling of touch. I want to be nothing but your husk, but you only ever take when we’re intimate. I know what to do when we’re just bodies. I don’t know how to bask in the afterglow. You’re teaching me a new kind of love I’ve never known. And I’m terrified of your gentleness.



Tender by Len de la Cruz - Texas, U.S.

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