“I didn’t mean for it,” he said. “I’m sorry.” Who does that? Who professes their love to someone, then apologizes for it in the same breath? That’s when I knew I had made a mistake. I realized then that all these months I had underestimated the unhappiness in Tanim’s eyes. I had assumed, perhaps because he wished so desperately for me to believe this façade, that Tanim could handle himself. I suspected from the beginning that he was a troubled man but I thought that since he made it this far he was in no true danger; miserable, yes, but harmless in his misery. Yet watching as he fought back tears and said he would give me everything he had, that it didn’t matter if I returned his love, I finally understood the depth of his self-loathing. In his mind there was no possibility I might desire him, only the unshakable dread that his longing would repulse me and I would turn away.
I wanted to ask “Do you really think I’m that cruel?” or perhaps “Are you really that dense?” but even those words stuck in my throat, to say nothing of the ones I had wanted to speak now for weeks. Instead I drew Tanim close and kissed him, pressing all the stubborn words trapped on my lips into his mouth, letting him read them like braille. I was cruel, it’s true, to wait so long, and I swore in that moment Tanim would never have another reason to hold his own love in such low regard. That kiss was an apology and a promise and a confirmation of who we were and what we could become; everything I couldn’t say to him but needed him to understand, for my sake and for his.