1. I found myself in a closet with my first love when we were both 10 or so. It was a rigged game of 7 minutes in heaven and our time was still ticking. I remember feeling very cramped between the vacuum cleaner and his body. He asked, “Do you really want to do this?” I shook my head and he mumbled, “Me neither.” So we just stood close enough that I could feel his goose bumps touch my own.
I was in love with my best friend. My biggest scar on my face resulted from proving to him I could be like one of the boys. We vandalized the neighborhood together, constructed made-up games together, philosophized in the way that kids do about anything from school to sex together. Loving him was a rush in many ways, but it was also masked and stifled from our perpetual infantile feigned dislike of each other. Even after we kissed “just for fun” behind a bush outside my childhood home I was still “just like a brother” to him, but I knew a brother wouldn’t touch my face like that.
We couldn’t possibly get past a platonic relationship because we knew too much about each other, and were not at all what we pictured in a potential romantic partner. We missed it. We missed each other. The last thing he said to me, when I returned to pick up something I’d left at his house a few months after I abruptly moved: “I didn’t even miss you” and I tried to believe the same.
2. My second love grew out of admiration and a hint of jealousy of his talents.
I was a parched valley and somehow he knew exactly how to fill up all the jagged cracks and spaces. I fell hard for his silver prose that dripped out his fingertips and laced our nightly chats. Our fondness for one another went back and forth for an extended amount of time, and my infatuation swelled with every split moment of eye contact, chat notification, flash of wit. He knew I had a penchant for stories and he happened to have a knack for telling them, so I thought for sure this was an indicator that this was meant to be. Loving him felt like blooming over and over and over again.
It was a picture-perfect courtship. He knew all the right things to say. He told everyone I was beautiful every chance he had to, whether or not I was listening. I was infatuated, maybe even obsessed with him, but I was also very well infatuated with the concept of being in love. It was partly selfish too, because I loved the kind of light, airy person I was when I was glowing from being in love. I did genuinely love him for his genuineness and his soft-heartedness, though I guess I we did not know or understand each other as well as we thought we did until perhaps the very end.
“I love yous” turned quickly into “I miss yous” and it was soon evident enough that this could not have a place in reality given the outside circumstances. It needed to be cut off, too, because perhaps our relationship didn’t have roots deep enough for us to withstand everything that threatened us.
One of the last things he’s said to me, when miles and lifestyles away we check up on each other: “You realize how people change and thus can better understand them.”
3. I ran into my third love in the library, and when that happened I genuinely felt like time had stopped, that something important was happening.
I fell in love with a wonderful collection of brillances and imperfections. It began this time out of a strange curiosity which became a fascination and attraction I couldn’t bring myself to pull away from. I fell in love with all the little habits, all the awe-inspiring pieces I gleaned about him from every interaction. It was affection, then connection. Loving him feels electric and stimulating, something that continually feeds itself. At some point we had a mutual understanding that we were both committed to taking this relationship seriously and have overcome so many obstacles to prove it. Our faults and shortcomings seem to mesh neatly with each other as do our respective assets. We support and encourage each other in big decisions and in our passions. We talk about our future together. We carry each other through our weakest moments and bask in each other’s success.
We take the time to work through our inevitable conflicts, however messy and aggravating. I know it is love because he accepts the nitty gritty details of my past. He is not afraid of my demons nor of the culture I come from that does not welcome him. It’s love because all my shortcomings to him are opportunities for growth. When I walked away and told him to leave to protect him from all my sharp edges, he came running after me to tell me he wanted all of me. Somehow where I see smudges and insecurities and crooked lines, he sees something close to beautiful. He has the patience of mountains and the gentle presence of rain clouds coaxing out the buried spring inside me.
Making me happy genuinely makes him happy. Loving him doesn’t make me feel at his mercy or totally dependent on his affection for my livelihood. Instead, we thrive on each other’s joy but also make each other feel entirely secure. I fell in love with someone who makes me feel more me. I don’t even quite feel like I fall in love with him more and more, but rather rise in it.
It’s everything I could ever want, and everything I didn’t know I needed.
The last thing he said to me: “See you soon.”