They’re suffocating me with their definitions of love, half-formed and mismatched. My pages ache from the nights when their hearts hurt too much with the weight of the things they think they know and the things they don’t realize they haven’t learned. There are tears were their shaking hands pressed too hard in their fury.
They tell me their love stories. The happy ones—the ones filled with summer nights and lipstick stains and messy hair getting tangled around their fingers. The sad ones about locking themselves in the bathroom at lunch and running mascara and lost appetites and returning Christmas presents because she dumped him at the beginning of Winter Break. The screaming matches in the front lawn, the whispered fights tucked behind the locker door, the furiously scribbled notes between teacher’s glances in science class, the thrown rings and ripped away sweatshirts.
Their nostalgic fingers wear down my edges, which were once white and crisp and respectable. When I was new, I had dreams. I had ambitions. They brought me to school with them and I thought I was going to be filled with the infinite knowledge that filled libraries, but instead they drew hearts and stick-figure animals and rainbows that disappeared into two-dimensional clouds. They smudged my ink to resemble the blood stains of battle and their tears smudge their letters into meaningless chatter. Still, I keep them safe. I protect them because they tell me the letters are important. They may need them one day.