Those three, little words. They used to rise up from my little, full lips as easily as bread rises from yeast—naturally, organically—the way it is meant to, in its own sweet time. “I don’t know how to say this,” I told my first love—after growing increasingly fond of all the wonderful, quirky, sweet things he was and ways he treated me and others—“but I think I’m falling in love you.”
“It’s funny, I’ve been thinking the very same thing,” he said. “I wanted to tell you, but didn’t know how to say it first.”
My third love surprised me by being the first to bear his soul. I remember he was sitting on the counter of the kitchen in the house we shared with several others that first summer. He told me he could just see us living together for months and years to come, growing together into an old age, sitting side by side on rocking chairs and holding hands.
Sometimes sending the words out into the water sink like a dead weight at the bottom of the ocean. Spoken far too soon, in the heat of the moment, they are met with silence, confusion and quickly brushed away by our own embarrassment. “I just mean, from what I know of you so far, I love what I have been getting to know,” comes the failed rebound.
As you age, the stakes get larger. The falls get deeper and potentially more heart-shattering. Requited love turns south. Passionate love that seems knit from the stars bombs like a meteor crash. It becomes harder to hope. Harder to believe. Harder to put those words, your self, out there.
I never told him I loved him. Never boldly out loud in the two years we were together. I’d get the courage as he was falling asleep, or as we were saying our goodnight calls. With the former, he’d pretend not to hear, or mumble something unintelligible back. With the latter, he’d say I was talking nonsense again and needed to go to sleep.
Ironically, he was the one who finally gave me a Valentine’s Day card that said, “I love you for all the ways…you’re willing to put up with me.” Yeah.
Finally, he got in this ridiculous habit after multiple arguments and break ups of saying, “You hate me.” I’d say, “No, of course, I don’t hate you.”
Then, finally, one day in the car, on the way back from running errands, I instead said, “No, I love you.” He seemed pleasantly surprised, though at first played it off as usual. “No, you hate me.”
“You know I love you,” I emphatically stated.
It only took us four years, including years apart. Too little too late, perhaps. Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t say it because I was afraid I wouldn’t hear it back. Or I didn’t because I wasn’t sure how positive I was about those feelings the majority of the time. Or if I didn’t say them simply because I was afraid—I knew I really didn’t have him, even when he was right there.
I grew wary of the ease with which Mr. Etiquette used the L word. I fell for him so quickly and completely, only to get singed with my naïveté—nay, ignorance . One month he was heartbroken over love lost with FDG. The next month, he was deeply in love with me, talking about a future that potentially spanned a lifetime.
Gun-shy, I began to bristle whenever he told me he loved me in and out of that long, dark tunnel of tumultuous ups and downs. So instead, Mr. E began to say, “I accept you completely.” One day soon, he had said with confidence, you are going to want to say it back to me. Of course, he was right.
It’s been more than a year since I last said those words romantically. I say them to my family daily. My girl friends and I have started telling each other we love each other, especially after some rough months (and years) with health struggles and life challenges, in general. It feels good to share how much we care about one another so openly, and I think brings us that much closer.
I’ve missed feeling that way about a special someone in my life with a gnawing longing I barely realized until the possibility of it starting nipping at my heels once more.
I love saying those words in my head. They just want to dance off my tongue again. I want to sing them and wrap them around the object of my affection.
Is it that I’m loving life so much right now? Is it that I love the way you make me laugh so hard? Is it the way you make me feel so free and able to truly be myself, the badass to the baby?
I love how brilliant you are. I love how I can’t keep my hands off you. I love how you turn into a puddle of goo around your pets. I love the manly way you handle your car. I love the ways you want to help me take care of my health. I love the way you so wholeheartedly love the people you love. I love how much of a friend you’ve become to me, how great a companion and lover.
Words threaten to spill out more and more these days. But I will hold them in until I better know what these…feelings mean. They’re better left unsaid at this point. All you need to know right now is this big grin on my face, just for you, is absolutely, completely genuine.