When everyone talks about being in love, they never really know how to describe it. My mom always said when you know, you just know. That used to infuriate me. I wanted the answer to be straightforward, simple. More importantly, how could I know something that I had never felt before? With time I thought the meaning would come forward in an honest, simple way. A small part of me bounced through life seeing love in action but doubting I would ever find someone who would teach me its meaning.
But then I met you, nearly six hundred and ninety-something days ago and without being able to describe it, something clicked into place like the right key had found the lock. I understood then how that feeling had no clear definition. My sister asked me once how I knew and I tossed around definitions in my head that never seemed to hit the mark. Frustratingly I parroted those same words my mom told me– when you know, you know. Months later, I had been watching a scene from Finding Nemo where Dory tells Marlin “When I’m with you, I’m home”. I jolted to a realization as the right words came along and finally seemed to encompass what I knew as a bone-deep truth: Your love is home. I think my heart had found its resting place in you and has remained there these six hundred and some odd days after you took it away.
The wounds you left behind still bleed and each prod of a memory of you mixes in shades of midnight and crimson. Perhaps I keep prodding that wound because in some way the pain feels good. I want to remember you without the ache, but the ache reminds me of what you left behind, both good and bad. There are too many memories that bring up the familiar mixed feeling of loneliness and confusion, a word which there is no description for besides the feeling of complete emptiness. When I remember how you told me the first time we met that you knew I was going to be more beautiful in person and you owed yourself twenty dollars, it feels hollow in my chest and soul. When I think about how you told me you’d never felt the same for anyone as you did for me, I am reminded of that empty cavern where a you-shaped hole is carved in my heart. And when I remember how you always wanted five more kisses before we said goodbye, the echoing pain of homelessness washes over me like an endless tide. I had love, and then I didn’t.
Weeks after, my mom asked me how I knew it was love and not just some fantasy I had built up in my mind. Her intentions were well-meaning, not malicious because she was trying to help me through the heartache you left behind. I told her of one particular memory that encapsulated the feeling, explaining that I knew without a doubt. Because when you know, you just know, but I needed it to be straightforward. I needed to understand.
You took me up to your favorite mountain spot as day shifted to night. The walk wasn’t long from where we parked, and we had very little snow and ice to battle apart from a small patch I almost fell on. You held tightly to my hand and steadied my feet, promising to catch me if I fell. The tiny path gave way to a hidden overlook where we could see the distant twinkling lights of a city and cars like little tea-light candles dotting the earth. There was a wooden bench enclosed in a standing circle of snowcapped pines where we could look out and see the whole world. Here, we were far removed from it all. The cold crept its fingers beneath our coat collars, but the warmth of your hand in mine dispelled that chilly feeling. I remember how sacred that place felt as we sat on that wooden bench and your arms wrapped me in a safe cocoon of shared body heat. Not for the first time, we talked about childhoods and dreams, God and the meaning of life, and there was a dawning realization that you were the half of me that was always missing.
It felt to me like an intense dream that I never wanted to wake up from. The looming snow-topped mountains surrounded us in a private fortress, one that I hoped no one would stumble upon. You and I sat and stared at the canopy of stars, breathing in the cold winter air. I remember your arms tightening around me, the weight of your chin resting against my shoulder. You breathed out a happy sigh, the warm air caressing my cheek and sending shivers down my spine. I asked you softly what was on your mind, not wanting to disturb our little paradise.
“I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have found you.”
I squeezed your arms and murmured those same sentiments back, fighting down the rising giddiness in my chest. In those moments, I remember telling you that I wished we could have stayed up on that mountain for the rest of my life. You tumbled around the words to ask me if I wanted to be your girlfriend. Without hesitation, I said yes. I remember how you fumbled with the words “so that makes me your girlfriend– oh my God, I mean boyfriend” and the way that the chuckle echoed through your chest as my laugh bounced off of the boulders. We watched the stars and the stars watched us back, and I knew I was in love with you. Love was an artistic rocker boy with a leather jacket and a ‘97 Shelby cobra. It was simple and something I thought would be permanent.
I would like for that memory of you to stay as untainted as that peaceful place, but it will never be that way now. You were mine and just as suddenly you were not. A text at two in the morning wrecking balled all those dreamlike notions with frantic explanations of how you didn’t see this working out while I begged to understand what I had done wrong. In the end, it wasn’t me. You told me as much, nearly a year and a half later, when you apologized and said that your previous relationship had ruined you. The truth is, I was equally as broken when we met and expected you to be able to fix it. Neither of us knew what we were getting into, and seemed to have put the burden of fixing on each other. This realization doesn’t change the ringing pain that ripples through me still, nearly all this time later.
Those golden days are now far behind and I’m still dealing with the carnage in my mind of that shattered glass castle of dreams. If I would have known that love hurts this much, I never would have sought out the meaning. The truth of it is, I can’t help but love you still even after how broken you left me. And that seems crazy to say, but I’ve learned that love is not straightforward, and it’s not simple, as much as I would like it to be.
Life is not a meet-cute– it is a broken boy meeting a broken girl, colliding headfirst and seeking a fixer in the other. And broken cannot fix broken. You were in shambles and I was in splinters, and the fallout was phenomenal. So far, it seems to me at least, you have managed to piece yourself back together. I am still in splinters.
The one thing that haunts me at night among these musings of finding home and then losing it is that I don’t think I know the real meaning of love.
I’d like to say that maybe someday in the distant future I’ll meet someone who gives me a more realistic definition. Maybe I don’t know it and you were the gateway to understanding what is and isn’t the truth. Maybe I am right, and we just met each other at the wrong places in the timeline. Like I said, one day in the future I’ll finally understand, but right now the pieces you left me in are too much to compete with. I’m trying to build myself from the bottom up and understand why love isn’t easy. Hopefully one day it will make sense why I felt you were home and you decided I wasn’t. I guess that a small part of me is scared of living in someone as fully as I lived in you, so love is a far-off notion and something from which I have half-closed myself. For now, I’ll be continuing to make sense of the mess we ended in and live in the wounds that remain, just so I can remember you a little while longer.
The bottom line is this:
You wrecked me for love.