When my grandmother first said “those” three words to my grandfather,
she said them by tossing a pinch of salt over her shoulder at their wedding.
When I first really said them, they were to myself as an apology
for nineteen years of viewing my body as a wound in need of a tourniquet,
or a grave in need of upheaval. Nineteen years of viewing my body
with the antonym of love and the synonym of dislike.
But when I met the first person I ever slept with, I said those three words
like bruises that would never heal.
They came out like a flock of moths instead of a stomach full of butterflies,
and they burned as they came.
But when he said it back, he said it with his palms
and they returned those three words to me through his fingers.
That was when I learned that scars don’t always have to speak,
that “I love you” doesn’t always have to take the form of words.
Because sometimes to repeat language is to deny it of its meaning,
just as calling all moons in the solar system by the same name
refuses them of the beauty that makes them unique.
My grandmother knew it long before she married my grandfather
and when she finally stepped up to the altar, she knew it then too.
So now when I say “I love you,” I say it in gestures and glances,
but mostly with forgiveness, just like I learned to forgive my body
for nineteen years of being a mistake.