I am a poor lover.
There are many luxuries I cannot afford and many that have been kept from me. As much as I try to cut myself open, I can only do it behind closed doors, where the only eyes that can feel and judge me are hers.
I am poor not by definition of wealth or the names of the restaurants I can take my lover to, but by the actions that I am too scared to do and the ones that she cannot.
When I walk with her through the streets that I know and have walked on alone during many mornings to start my days, suddenly, while having her next to me, I feel those same streets branding me, rejecting me. The same streets that I know every inch of, every missing cobblestone, and every crack suddenly squint their eyes and look at the human holding my hand. The streets seem not to be familiar with the diversity of love. The streets do not share my struggle. Our struggle.
The way our hands meet and hold each other changes every second, as if there is a living heart between our palms beating to the rhythm of the stares of people who don’t even know our names. A lingering stare makes me grip more loosely; unacknowledgment makes us hold each other tighter. A group of men ahead of us might make her let go of my hand until we pass them, but an empty corner will make her lock our fingers together tightly. The act of holding hands is so expensive, I swear I am exhausted by the time it ends.
I am the poorest of lovers when I introduce her to others, and she gives me her spare change when she can. To be a poor lover means you must be the best of actors, to be able to adapt identities spontaneously and never complain about it. To her acquaintances, you are a friend. To her family, you are her best friend. To her actual best friend, you are her lover. To her other friends, you are an old friend. Every now and then, on a special occasion, you might be afforded the luxury of being a girlfriend.
I am poor because there exists a classism on love, and there is little room for mobility in it. There are the wealthy ones with the right hair, skin, eyes, and genders, and there is everyone else. I work harder and more diligently to feel my love, and yet I still cannot afford simple pleasures and must endure this extreme poverty. I fear sometimes that my lover will leave me for someone richer than me. I wonder what it’s like to be able to spend love publicly without being on a budget.
Lover, I am poor, but I give you all I have and take only what you give me. Lover, we are poor, but at least we’ve got each other.