"How much do you love her?"
"You really want to know this? You want me to do an Al Pacino like speech about this subject? Are you sure?"
He sighed and rubbed his eyes. He put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, getting close to her.
"Have you ever lost something when you were a kid? Like.. Did you lose a blanket, a stuffed animal, or some kind of special item?"
"Sure, all kids do that."
"Okay.. Do you remember the moment you realized you had lost it? How you felt so empty and a feeling of terror crawled up your spine? You freaked out and wailed because you felt you were nothing without your blankie, or you stuffed animal."
"I vaguely remember feeling like that as a kid, yeah." She replied. She put an elbow on her knee and rested her chin in her hand.
"Multiply that feeling by about 19 quintillion times and you have what I feel every single day that I live without her in my life."
"Then how do you even live? If you're empty and scared all the time, what kind of life is that?"
He chuckled a bit. It was a surprisingly tricky question. It took him a few moments to come up with a response.
"It's a lot more than just being empty. I told you to multiply that one singular feeling without saying to add in about a couple dozen more. Loneliness, misery, pain, longing, envy, desparation and whatnot. You have to add all those things before you get the melting pot that is the life I put myself through."
"You didn't answer my question though." She interrupted.
He held up a finger and smiled faintly.
"Hold on, I'm getting there." He took a breath and then continued. "With everything that happened, this is my life. Its not a fun one. I'm always tired, the stress is never ending, and it hurts to breath some days. My eyes are always heavy and I find it hard to find joy in anything. Its like anybody else's life is, in the fact that its hard and miserable. What differs between my life and others is why I live. I live for myself, yes. I do things that I want, I pursue things that I want and I am breathing because I don't want to be dead. I am fiercely independent now. However, in the underlying tone of it all, I am alive because of her. I need to be here for her no matter what. I'm not allowed to die, I can't give up and I can't sacrifice myself for anyone else but her."
"So.." She thought over her next question for a moment. "You live through all of the misery for her?"
He nodded and leaned back. He rested his right arm on the back of the couch and took a deep breath before he gave her a verbal answer
"In all basicality, yes. There's more to it then just that though."
Another deep breath followed by a few seconds of silence. He was finding it difficult to share to someone like this, but he knew better than to try and hold something like this in.
"See.. A month or so after she left me, I made a wish on a shooting star. Normally I don't believe in these paltry fairy tales, but both times I've wished on a star, it's come true."
"What did you wish?"
"Well the first wish was simple. I wished to see her. Be near her and feel her presence. Within two months I was by her side in spectacular fashion."
"And the second wish?"
He went silent and stared down at his legs. His hazel eyes glinted in the dim lighting of the room as he looked back up towards the woman in front of him.
"I wished for her happiness. I stated that I would endure a life of misery, hardship, pain, and torture if it meant she could live a semi happy life. If I gave up my hope to genuinely smile, she would be able to smile with all the beauty she could muster and it would be genuine. I traded my life for her happiness."
"But why? That sounds like a horrible trade off." She sounded confused now, which gave him a broken kind of smirk. Almost as if he wanted to say something humurous, but his mind wouldn't allow him.
"I ask myself the same question every time I'm faced with a new obstacle. And you want to know what I end up saying?"
She remained silent, waiting for him to go on.
"I say, 'Because you love her you dolt. This is a hardship you go through so that maybe, in some way, you can still make her happy'. Sure, I'm probably fooling myself with the hopes that my wish actually came true and I'm being childish. But.." He stopped and looked back down at his legs. "I love the woman. I'd go through a million hells just to see her smile. Or just to know that she smiled. You asked how much I love her? I love her enough to sacrifice my life so that she can have one. I love her enough that if she were to call me right now and asked for my help, I would be by her side in a day. I love her enough that I keep breathing, I make something of myself, I do something grand with my life, and its all dedicated to her. Because she was the first person to show that she believed in the man I could be. She was, and still is the most beautiful thing on the face of the earth and beyond. I will always love her, and those three words are reserved for her, and her alone. Love is this goddess. This angel of beauty. To say I love you to someone else.. I wouldn't mean it and so its an insult."
He sighed and rubbed his eyes again.
"To sum it up and asnwer your question properly... I love her more than I will ever love anything. Love is her. She is light, she is hope, and she is glory incarnate. I will sacrifice everything I am just so that she may smile. So that she can light up the world with her adorable laugh. So that she can bring happiness to others with her sense of humuor. I'd gladly give it all up without a moments hesitation.. Because she deserves it, and I can give it. She will always have me no matter what. I am her personal soldier, waiting to be called on to carry her through a war that everyone else is blind to."
He went quiet as a tear squeezed out of the corner of his eye. It trailed down his face, running slowly enough to be noticed. The woman looked into his eyes and saw nothing but absolution. This was the barest he could ever be. She could see into his soul in this moment and she saw a soul that belonged to another. He belonged to himself, and to her at the same time. He was himself, and he was hers.
It was.. Beautiful. And she knew that in that moment, he would love this mystery girl. Forevermore.