You are beautiful. By my standards. I cannot speak for the standards of others. Your eyes, their depth, the contours of your nose, each lip, each piece makes a greater whole. And I sit opposite you, here in my bedroom, and that cheap incense burns, a spiral turn of smoke, an open window on a summer night. Your naked body, mine, the skin and fat of our tummies folded as we sit. You crush your makeshift cigarette in the old jam jar then look me in the eye and this is what you say:
“I don’t owe you anything. Every kiss you gave me. Every hug. Every time you nurtured me when I was fallen. I owe you nothing in return. No kiss for kiss or touch for touch, nothing. You have ‘worked’, or so you say, on us, as if we were a job. Full-time, part-time or cash in hand? All that work yet worthless, you have earned nothing. Your hands are empty of this exchange. Still you think you deserve something from me but you don’t. You deserve no love or act of kindness, I owe you nothing.
“And I don’t owe because you don’t own. Your ownership of me is meaningless, like the invisible contract upon which it is written. For I am my own, you possess nothing of me, my heart, my body, my autonomy are not borderlands of yours to conquer, vanquish, tax and rent. You don’t own, thus, you never spent. For I am free to do with me exactly what I wish, I am free, absolutely.
“And with this freedom what do I choose to do? I choose to love you. To hold your heart and kiss your lips. Nothing’s mine yet all I freely give, there is no charge, no cost, no price to pay, for money’s domain is far away from our intimacy. And more than choose to love I choose to trust, you, with my heart too. And yes we will take too much or not enough and we will get it wrong, but love is not a calculation, cost and benefit maximisation, it cannot be summed, enumerated, charted or graphed, unexchangeable, it defies fungibility in its aching, pulsing intangibility. And I of you will simply ask and hope you’ll do it too. But should you ever say that I owe, I will say no, I owe you nothing but I’ll freely give everything.”