Et puis, tenez, monsieur Marius, je crois que j’étais un peu amoureuse de vous.
Did you know, Mister Marius, maybe I was a little in love with you while you were here–a twisted kind of love, a childish one half-wrapped in dislike and mocking, a barely-there adult’s love with its slight shimmer of adolescent lust.
Maybe I was in that sort of love, because otherwise why would you matter so? But when you left, that love faded into cold resolve, as it became more apparent that I would never be enough, that you would never be enough, that instead of that Hollywood ideal that we would be each other’s missing pieces we would just be missing something else entirely. You were a stray cat another stray wanted to take in. We were broken people whose jagged edges just couldn’t fit together, instead grating on each other until bits of us were ground into fine powder.
So many words to explain wrong, all wrong.
It must have been love, of a sort, though while it was there I never felt much more than a hint of it, a little sliver like what one sees when peeking between the tiniest of spaces between fingers. Maybe it was because you were something like returning: a bit of my past come back to me, a message in a bottle from a self who died long ago. But that’s the point: she died, or grew up, which sometimes feels like the same thing–these cycles of death and renewal that are all a part of growth, like a plant springing from lush soil.
That little girl isn’t that little girl anymore. And neither are you the faunlet the little long-ago nymphet fell for. We have both hardened, and cracked at the edges, and sought our own ways of healing. Did you ever know that sweet, serious, ancient-eyed child to do anything but blush and smile? I swear I can’t remember much more than that. I can’t remember much of who you were then, either.
I have the wrong blood and skin, hair and eyes. You have the wrong voice and arms, heft and heart. We seek the same thing: someone who will not hurt us. And maybe I’m a little closer to that. Or you are. Either way, we are both not that someone.
A part of me knows that someone does not exist, that by nature, Mister Marius, humans will hurt each other, especially if they love each other. But even if that is the case, I’m not the one to hurt you. Mon cher monsieur! I would be a hurt you would have to walk away from.
You would be a hurt I could not forgive.
Maybe it was those nights, between phone calls, and the luminous moons of our faces on computer screens, that wove the illusion that we were ripe to fall, or that spun the snare around my…heart? (I’m not even sure my heart was party to this. I think you only got as deep as my mind.) Shared secrets, a digital skinship–we lit matches and wove them in and out of each other’s fingertips, thinking it was impossible to be burned because “I definitely could not fall for you!” “Nor I, you. Again.” And by the grace of God we were not burned. No, my little love–we were only singed.
You were Mister Marius, and I was Éponine, but not yours, never yours, as you could not be mine. I burned for you, once–I stepped on that pyre and mailed my heart across oceans and I did not regret it. I do not regret it. I value that time.
But I could not do it again.
I was wrong: what I felt could not have been love. If it was, it would have made more and less sense–the rationality of the heart, which can appear irrational, but if followed to its natural conclusions makes perfect sense. If it was, then it could not have become what it is now: this nagging question of “If we had never reached out to each other, would we both have been better off?”
Éponine never wanted to leave her Monsieur Marius’s side. I don’t think I could follow you to the barricades. My little love, my memory–I love you better now that I have given up all possibility of “loving” you. I love as friend and as stranger. I love as a girl who understands that she cannot claim you, that she really does not want to: she cannot heal you or hurt you by rights, and if she should try she would only succeed in hurting herself. That neither can you heal or hurt her–should you try, you would go mad. It feels wrong, in the end–gut-deep and heart’s core, the combination of your head on my shoulder or mine on yours is an incongruity that I cannot reconcile. And neither I can supply the magic bullet or the right words to help you, to be what those other girls could not.
I can only be me, in search of my own peace, my own answers.
I’m not begging leave of you, Mister Marius. I will still be the best friend to you that I can. But I won’t fool myself into believing I can save you, and I can’t let you think you can save me. Éponine tried to save Marius, and she died in the process, and if she hadn’t tried, then he would have perished. I am not willing to die, and neither am I willing to risk you. Better instead to avoid the whole scenario entirely. After all, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, you are Mister Marius to me, and not Monsieur.
You will find your harbor–of that I am sure. I do not need to be the agent who guides you there. After all, I’m finding my own way too–who am I to give advice?
I wish you, instead, all happiness.