December 26th, 2018
i used to wonder how i might know i was in love. or if i ever would be. i used to worry about growing older because of this fear of the unknown. how could i understand whether i loved someone when i couldn’t choose between ways i wanted to tie my shoe that morning: bunny ears or through the loop? in the end i usually just wore velcro.
i used to wonder what love meant to the people around me — how come they knew that they loved each other and i didn’t? my mom and dad loved each other and they knew it. my aunts and uncles loved each other and they knew it. my babysitter and her husband loved each other and they showed it. they kissed and laughed and held hands and i wondered if i would ever be sure enough that i was in love to do those things with someone.
i used to wonder why people loved each other in the first place. it seemed like weakness, a mistake that some people were too emotional to avoid. a nice idea, yeah, but something unattainable for real-life successful people. james potter loved lily and was killed for it. romeo and juliet loved each other, and because of that they both killed themselves. friends i heard about went to a college they didn’t want to because their boyfriend did. women on tv shows made themselves look stupid because they thought that would make a boy love them. i decided i was too smart, too capable, too strong to depend on someone like that or be willing to risk so much for them.
i got a little older, and i started to wonder why i hadn't felt it yet. i had had crushes, sure, but where was the big great feeling? what are the songs and paintings and books and poems and sculptures about, and why didn’t i have it too? maybe i had already loved someone, someone i thought i had just had a crush on, and i didn’t realize it. maybe that’s all love was, and everyone else was just making a big deal out of it. there's no checklist, no neon sign, no alarm for telling you you’re in love. maybe i just would never get it, or i wasted a chance with it, or maybe it didn’t exist. maybe it was another thing that adults embellish to make getting older seem more exciting, to make kids look forward to the rest of their lives — like driving or paying for things or taking the subway by yourself.
now it hits me every time i see him.
i think it’s a little like riding in a hot air balloon at night— a bit dangerous, but mostly beautiful. i didn’t quite realize i was floating until i was a few thousand feet off the ground, until i was shrouded moonlight and next to the stars. now i look around and wonder how i ever existed without this feeling. i glance down at the ground and know that no matter what happens, i am better off for feeling this way.
i think it’s a little like looking at an abstract painting, and then suddenly understanding it. you see the small pieces — the individual stripes of color and the loud shapes. and you see, intellectually, that it’s a pretty painting that must have required skill to create. you know it’s supposed to make you feel something strong, something that maybe you just can’t get. and then someone comes over to help you understand, to see the way the painting hums and comes alive when you view it from a certain angle, and then all at once you feel what you know you only saw before.
i think it’s a little like being underwater. you take a breath in anticipation. you shut your eyes, and totally submerge yourself. the immediate shiver travels through your body until the softness of the water settles into your skin. the ripples brush over you, and your muscles relax. maybe you peek your eyes open and watch the sunlight travel through the water, through the love, and you know you are a part of it.
i don’t need him. i know now that that’s not what love is. i wouldn’t be no one without him. he does not complete me. everybody, no matter whether or not they are in love, is a complete person.
but now i know what it feels like to ride in a hot air balloon at night.