“I…” he stumbled over the next word he wanted to say. He couldn’t make the sound; felt like he wanted to choke on it.
Jenny looked at him expectantly, waiting for what he was going to say but she glanced back down at her menu when she realised he definitely wasn’t going to say it.
He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He had said it before – probably a million times over in the 4 years they’d been together. What was so different now?
Jenny lead the conversation throughout the course of their meal, where he could respond normally, but when a natural silence came, as usually happens, he would try again to say it, always stumbling over that one word. It was a time when he felt the need to say it, would usually say it at such moments. But now it was like the word physically repulsed him; made him gag almost.
After a few days of this and wanting to say the word at least what felt like a thousand times, and not just because he couldn’t, he decided to confide in someone.
“Mom, I’m having trouble expressing a word and I don’t know why.”
“What word?” she asked, looking puzzled at such a notion,
He shuffled awkwardly and made an attempt to say it, but, as before, the word just could not be formed and spoken a loud. He growled in frustration.
“How do you feel about me, mom? and Dad?”
“Well I love you both very much, of course”
“That’s it!” he exclaimed, “That’s the word. I physically cannot say it”
“Yup. Can’t say that. It’s like my mouth can’t form it. I, I want to say it, but I just can’t” His voice softened, “I haven’t been able to for days. Jenny probably thinks I’m going off her.”
“Are you sure you feel it? This could be some sort of psychological thing y’know”
“Definitely. And y’know what, I’m not overly bothered about why I can’t say it; I just need to be able to say it to Jenny. I don’t want her thinking that I’ve stopped.”
“Well, some say that actions speak louder than words. You’ll just have to show her.”
He felt a bit dumbfounded. What did he usually do to show how he felt? He thought but nothing came to mind. He couldn’t think of anything he did for jenny as a show of affection – they kissed and hugged, sure, but he did nothing else. Whenever he felt love, he’d say so. He could not think of a single thing he did as a show of affection and appreciation for Jenny.
He asked himself, “What is romantic?” and when he couldn’t come up with a decent answer himself, he turned to books, and movies, and began observing other couples when he was out and about.
One day, when they were out walking the dog, he saw a couple walking hand in hand so instantly grabbed Jenny’s.
“What are you doing?” she asked, sounding unimpressed.
“Just wanted to hold your hand,” he responded, before getting a little bit defensive, “Is that a problem?”
“No,” She chuckled, “Just not something you usually do, that’s all”
She smiled and started swinging their arms as they walked along.
he noticed as they walked that she seemed brighter – an inner voice screamed at him to tell her;
“You look beautiful today Sweet,” he stated
She looked at him bemused, but didn’t say anything, just smiled.
He tried a couple of different romantic gestures and they seemed to satiate Jenny when she was full of expectance, waiting for him to declare his love, but he felt like a fraud; it wasn’t natural for him. Jenny wasn’t even the kind of girl for grand gifts and public displays.
When he brought her a large bouquet of deep red roses, her face lit up, glowed even, but then took a serious look quite quickly, asking what he had done wrong, questioning his fidelity to her.
“You idiot!” he thought to himself afterwards, “Roses aren’t even her favourite”
He tried a couple of other things but each time felt like he wasn’t being genuine with her – like it was all show and no meaning.
A few weeks later he was at the supermarket, wracking his brains for new ideas. He was absolutely frustrated with himself. “ Who knew that words and actions were so inseparable” he thought.
He picked up the few things that they needed and when walking past the medicine aisle decided to get some tissues and throat lozenges for Jenny who was coming down with a cold.
“Thanks honey,” she murmured when he got home, “You’re so romantic”
“Yeah. That was a really thoughtful thing to do for me”
He smiled widely, proudly realising that romance wasn’t all big, fancy dates and grand gestures.
“I love you” he said.
And whilst he was glad to be able to say it to the woman that mattered most, he never actually used it as often as he used to, enjoying the discovery of little things that filled his and Jenny’s heart with love.
After all, sometimes, actions do speak louder than words.