"Love is more trouble than it’s worth."

I hear the words come out of my mouth before I realize what I’m saying. She’s listening to every word I say, noting it and storing it away for later use, because I am the big sister and I know a thing or two about things. She thinks so, anyhow. She is eleven and very interested in learning about love and boys and even sex, though she is embarrassed to talk about that, even with me. When I understand what I’ve just said to my little sister, I can imagine the rust forming around the screws holding her heart in its place. We’re walking together.

"Wait. Stop," I say, and she stops. And looks at me. I know that I could frighten her, and make her unlearn all the giddy optimism she’s acquired from watching preteen dramas on television. Some would call that warning her, or preparing her, but I don’t think it is. Still, she shouldn’t take advice from me on matters of the heart.

"Listen. Love is always worth it. I don’t know why I said that before, but I want you to forget that I said it. Love is trouble, and love doesn’t last. But it’s sweet and it’s wonderful and it’s the only thing we’ve got. You have to love people, lots of people, and maybe get married and have kids and. . ."

I trail off, knowing that I’m rambling, but she’s ready to pick up where I left off. Who she’ll marry, who she likes and who her friends are. With these subjects, she’s on sure footing and knows what she knows. We smile at each other, and I breath in relief that a small crisis has been averted; her heart is still in one perfect piece. She doesn’t need me to help break it. Someone will come along soon enough who'll do that, and the cynicism of the jaded will set in. Soon enough she’ll know what it’s like to be too afraid to wrap her arms around someone, and hold them.

We have little, fragile hearts. They burst with joy. They burst with sorrow. And they break all too easily, cracking under the strain of this hurt or that hurt. So we stop falling in love, or we stop ourselves from falling in love (or limit it). Romantic love is included, but not the only love people close themselves off to. We can’t love our friends that strongly, they don’t belong to us and we don’t belong to them. We can’t say anything like that! What would they think? What would they say? It’s too risky to fall in love with people, because they will hurt you!! It’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Wait, I say. Stop. I want you to forget what I just said. Wipe it from your memory, and then wipe all the hurt from your memory. Forget the pain, and then think about the friends you love, or the people that captivate you so much that you want to love them. Think about the friends you adore and the friends who you’d hold if it was socially acceptable. Then tell them, and love them and hold them, because it’s not too late to mend the crack in your human heart, because love is everything and all we have.

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