One time I loved a boy.  I loved in a whole-hearted and open way.  The way that breaks down all doubt and shame and negativity and fear.  My heart glowed.  This boy taught me a lot of things about myself.  I learned that I can be loved.  I learned that I can love.  I learned about hope and dreams and the tiny, secret parts of me that I didn't know were important.  I learned that the more you think of someone, the more neurons make connections, making you think of that person more.  I learned that there are parts of me that are flexible and parts that are concrete.

One time I wanted to love a boy.  I decided to regift my heart.  To end games.  To end questions.  To end the time that was he and I and move toward the part that was us.  So I handed my heart over and said what I feared.  I am yours.  I am yours and I want you to be mine.  And it sat between us.  Quiet, and heavy. It sat there, staring at me as he stared at it.  I don't know, he said.  I don't know what you want.  So I took back my heart, because every second it sat between us, hardened it.  I took back my heart and instead of putting it in my chest, I put it in my head.  Learn something, I told it.  Don't be so quick.

The next time I met a boy who was ready to love me.  He told me nice things and wanted to kiss me and sometimes he cooked me dinner.  We'd sit curled up on his couch and I'd think about how lucky I was.  How scared I was.  I thought about my heart.  I asked my heart, are you ready, is it time?  My heart turned the question over to my brain.

Don't you remember?  Don't you remember the first boy who ever told you he loved you?  He said those words as if they'd make the bruises go away.  Remember how he'd tell you how pretty you were and how much he loved you and how he couldn't imagine life without you.  Remember how he told you that he was sorry and it wouldn't happen again and how he just loved you so much.  Remember him?

But my heart asks, maybe this time.  And my brain laughs.

This time?  Remember the boy you knew in college.  Remember how funny and sweet and kind he was?  Remember how great he was to you when he was drinking.  A couple of beers and he'd hold your hand and tell you how pretty you are.  A couple of shots and he'd pull you in his arms and ask, why don't we go on a date?  You're so damn pretty.  Remember the night when you stayed up late and he finally grew tired of waiting and told you that he thought you'd be easy and he was obviously wasting his time.  That he liked petite girls.  That you were the biggest girl he'd hung out with.  That time was so great, the brain laughs.

The heart whispers, maybe this time.  So the brain continues.

Love.  Let's talk about the boy you loved and how he loved you back, too.  How it was wonderful and happy and he never hit you and he never called you fat.  Remember how he made you feel happy and safe and free.  Remember how you'd start smiling in the middle of a kiss and how just a look from him could send your heart racing.  Remember that, remember?  Remember how everything was so great but toward the end it was just a  You remember sitting there, across from him and thinking, this is it.  This is the end.  So you stayed a little longer than usual because you knew.  Because you just wanted someone who didn't hurt you.

So I keep my heart with my brain because it's smarter.  Because it's safer.  Because there is nothing worse than abuse, than degradation, than disappointment.  Except that there might be.  And that's the tiny fear that keeps my heart with my brain.  Because it's safer to regret than to hurt.