This. From "She of the Mountains" by Vivek Shraya

"What do you like about me?

The question was unexpected. On its own, it implied an insecurity  forcing the other person to respond with a list of compliments:

You are intelligent,





Fishing was not her style, but before he responded he found himself envious that he hadn't thought to ask the question himself.


He put his hand over her hand.

That's not an answer.

She pulled her hand away.

But that's my answer.

He didn't know how to say in words that she was the first person he had ever liked outside of his needs. He didn't like her because she was another person whose approval he craved or merely because she liked him back. He liked her for herself and everything she embodied.

But even more than this--before her, he hadn't known how to trust love because he had always had to work for it. Every smile, phone call, birthday gift, he had fought for. Put out his neck for. Stood in the rain for. Earned with muscle and memory. He noticed the details no one else paid attention to, remembered the occasions that everyone else forgot, weathered rejection or no response at all, found a void, and then found a way to fill it.

So when someone had said I need you, it just meant he had been successful. If they didn't need him, he hadn't bent low enough, gotten on his knees, and his skin hadn't developed the right callouses.

When they said I miss you, it just meant that they were responding to the gaps between his carefully timed, repetitive appearances in the inbox or on their doorstep.

And when they said I love you, he wanted to respond: You should. And then walk away. 

But not with her. With every step he had taken toward her, she had taken a step toward him.

His hand reached for her hand again.

No, really, what do you like about me? she insisted.


I figure if I know, I can keep doing it to keep you for as long as I can."