Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

When He Asks How Long I’ve Loved Him

I’ll say:

Since the first day that I met you, when you didn’t look at me with your deep brown eyes. When you regarded me warily as you did with all the other girls passing through your life at the time. You didn’t acknowledge me because you didn’t think that I would be significant.

Since Tori. Since knowing we at least had that one thing in common. Since you made me drive to the theatre hours early so we could sit in the car and get drunk on mudslides. That night you spun my class ring round and round my finger, and I sat next to you in the darkness while she was singing, and I asked you the truth and you lied. Not for the first time.

Since that ride home while you let me sleep, and that first holiday party, and that first picture we took together which we both still keep framed. Since that first winter of our tentative steps toward each other. Since you cured me so many times with your words and your weed, and the assurance that you were someone different, someone totally new and fresh and refreshing.

Since the spring of a fear that I thought I would lose you, not being able to trust you, not being able to see. Even then; even then. Since that first Cure concert when I finally found the conviction that at least this way you would always be with me. And then after, that second trip. Philadelphia will always be that dividing line. That vodka and sprite, that first cigarette I shared with you outside the hotel, only after I’d come to believe that no matter what, I still wouldn’t have you.

Since your mother loved me more than you did, since staying awake some nights to talk to her while you slept upstairs without me. Since painting your precious kitchen blue and yellow while you were at work and probably not even thinking about us. Since our first real club night — the last night I could drink tequila. Since I learned you would always be there to hold my hair back for me, since I believed you would be there through anything.

Since after that, all those nights spent in your room with the T.V. on, with the burritos and beers, the cheap art, the pictures you always loved to show me of a life of yours I would never know. Since the ecstasy. Since feeling like the only hand I could ever hold was yours. Since you’d saved me, time and again, held me close as we stumbled home where we will always be so bound together.

Since that first rift — the night that I called you crying and you wouldn’t acknowledge me. Since the next day when I let you go, when I thought I’d lost you. Still, even then, since all I could see that night was my total lack of place in the world because all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was yours. Since those months of aching — the emptiness in my heart no matter who filled me — it wasn’t you, it would never be you.

Since having this new hope. Since having your fingers back in my hair, changing me back into someone I used to be. Since having hope we’d be okay this time, because I still knew you. I still knew that between all those other sheets and beneath all those other chests, the only thing I ever needed to survive was your voice in my ear: you were always the only one.

Since the morning you called me crying, when I finally knew what it felt like to be needed by you, when I finally learned what it would feel like to not be loved by you. I wanted to take your face in my hands and say: “YOU’LL NEVER LOSE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU KEEP ME!” but I couldn’t.

Since Cassy was here. Since I knew how much you loved children. And even when you said you could do without any of your own, still I thought of that. For five years I haven’t been able to shake the picture of a little piece of you and me brightening in my belly. Since I knew exactly what you would look like taking a child from my arms.

And the months and months without you? I thought I would be okay if I had someone else to hold my hand, but it was like you were standing in the shadows just waiting to be seen. Since this last break-up. Since I fell and reached out only for you.

And since I had you, finally. Your face over mine in the darkness. Since I kissed you and felt like I was put on this earth to have your hands on my body. Since the morning after, since I was shocked to find that everything I had ever wanted could eventually come to me after years and years of people telling me that it wasn’t possible. And since then, since all I can do with my time is think about you. Since I realized there is no one else in the world who can make me as happy as you do. Since I knew you were the one. From that first moment. From that very first day.

This was written about fifteen years ago for a man I haven’t seen or spoken to in almost ten years. A love letter never sent. A brick around my neck that I’m setting down here for you, and for me.

Isn’t incredible what time does to us?