Venture across my bookshelf, there’s a fortune of Jane Austen. My DVD archive includes Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina, The Notebook, But I’m a Cheerleader– a string of romantic titles. My head churns out sappy symphonies (“Yellow”, “You Matter to Me”, “All Night”, on and on), and I don’t know how to shut them off. All of this is to say that I practically gave myself a PhD on romanticism while single. Twenty-five years, I thought I knew how things would feel and go. I don’t. To be fully present with another person becomes an emotional spinoff of myth busters– one where barriers are challenged, where beliefs shift, where fiction pales in comparison to reality.
Growing up, I was rarely encouraged to do things. I took the absence of a no as a yes. I’ve rarely been a yes to people. I’ve been a cannonball, a wildfire, a tidal wave. To her, I am a yes. Such a foreign word that my ears didn’t like it’s sound. So I ran. I remained ambivalent, indifferent. This isn’t what I thought it would be, but how would I know when this is the first time?
I thought love would heal me when that was never it’s job. It isn’t the doctor but the witness, the advocate, the hand holder in the icu when everything is scary.
I dreamed love was glamorous and grandiose– the sweeping novel of us: you got off the plane, a thousand yellow daisies, the yellow umbrella, the blue French horn, me sprinting to you on New Year’s Eve to tell you I love you. All of that is fiction. Love is consistent. The nudge of a good morning text, embracing one another’s quirks, a comfortable exchange of dialogue as an emotional gps– none of these things glitter. Nevertheless, they are gold.
I thought love would change me. Transfigure the pumpkin of me into a carriage. I didn’t know that it isn’t love if it asks you to be something else– doesn’t regard your very existence as magic.
I pined for people before you with ultraviolet affection, obsession, a constant quest to win them. Intensity soaked everything we did, and it could never be sustained. You were never a question. With them, I was speeding down the highway at 100 miles an hour. Probably why we crashed. You are a leisurely summer drive with the windows down, nobody else on this country road. You are solid earth to their molten lava. Nothing grows on a volcano, and when I realized that, I wanted to bloom with you.
I thought love came with signs and certainty, in the same wrapping paper I’d envisioned my whole life. I sought neon lighting, tried to be an electrician but only ended up with burns. I think a relationship is a choice. I choose the constellation of moles along the nape of your neck over the arms of a stranger. I say your name with conviction when so many other have been questions. I do not know what I’m doing or how long this will last, but I choose right now with you.
Love looks nothing like what I thought it would. I thought it would have come sooner and with a man since almost all her predecessors were guys. I thought love was a hard-won thing. I dated as a performance, effort coursing in all my affection. But she fades every vision, dwarfs it with her compassion, deafens every “should” with the calm meditating in her tawny eyes.
I’m more protective of this than I thought I would be– not because I’m embarrassed, but because things need to crawl before they can walk. Because the shelter of us is still being built. I don’t know how long it will stand. These words a fragile and daring all at once. To both exclaim my love for you with the humility to admit I don’t know where it will take us. But I want to go anyway. You’ll take shotgun (ok, that’s a lie because I’m a worse driver than you are), and we’ll go barreling through the myths, the titles, the songs together.
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