I. It started when you were two years old. You didn’t know how to speak. But that was okay, others spoke for you. You frequently saw the boy with bright blue overalls and refused to share your toys. His mother nudged yours, laughing at how well both of you were getting along. Before you knew it, you two would be getting married.
II. Her name was Noelle. You were in third grade when you were seated next to her for the rest of the year. She was tall and slender, with a long nose like yours. Sometimes during class, your focus would shift to her long, brown hair. One night you went home and asked, “Mommy? What if I’m a lesbian?” She gave you a worried look and replied, “Honey, don’t joke like that. You like boys.”
You didn’t ask her anything else.
III. It was hard to understand why boys were so great. They were messy in elementary school, teased you in middle school, harassed you in high school. Girls felt soft. They let you come close and didn’t make you worry.
IV. In ninth grade, you got your first boyfriend. A friend of a friend, never actually meeting. A manifestation of the future through two lit up phone screens from Yonkers to Long Island. He felt like a rope around your neck, taught you how to say I love you, but not in a way where you meant it. You broke up with him right before your birthday. Happy birthday to you.
V. You grew fearful of marriage. Your grandparents fought in foreign tongues. Your parents grew resentment for each other. The children cry, the adults weep. How did love ever exist in this house?
You asked your mother when she would divorce your father. Again, she was worried. You shouldn’t have asked.
VI. It was dark, right outside your dorm. Your fingers tickled the worn guitar strings as if you actually owned it. A boy with shaggy, dark hair sat beside you, smiling like he had never heard music before. You smiled too. He didn’t seem so rough.
VII. You were going to go back to your room when you met her. Your friend pulled you toward them and you would’ve resisted more, until you saw her eyes. You could’ve sworn you lost your breath for a moment as you took her in. She was a bit taller than you, dirty blonde hair braided to the side, and eyes matching the emerald earrings you were wearing that night. She looked at you for a moment, with the same ferocity you felt piling in your gut. But the night was cut, and you were forced to stop staring and cover your eyes for the morning.
VIII. The moment you saw him, you felt a part of yourself begin the conception of what it meant to love. Lips untouched, untainted fingerprints, you wanted to be shaped, you wanted to be revived. The idea that love fixes all was preposterous to you. It still is. But the light hit his face in the most bewitching way, you forgot to bite your nails.
IX. It begins with a look. With a hello. With an exchange of some sort. You take in their physical being as if your breathing the flowers you used to grow by the faucet. Something inside of you begins to wonder about them. You grow restless.
Are they passionate?
Are they kind?
What’s wrong with them?
X. You found yourself in his bed. You could hear the crickets screaming in the humid air. He kissed you with such divinity you could cry, reminding you of the day you first found yourself beautiful. He cradles your sorrows and you wipe away the lines from his face. Stories are thrown up to the ceiling for no one to catch, but you both still carry the memory. He becomes a person to you. One to hold, to care for, to understand.
XI. You weren’t sure of what felt good. But he made you feel good. He made gravestones look like worshiping sites. How did he do that?
XII. Your heart beat fast whenever he held your hand or cupped your cheek. Touch was a hit and you were constantly begging for another round. The philosophies you discussed erupted the nights with longing and instigation. Your mind was thriving, your body was thrumming. He felt so fragile against you, you didn’t realize how splintered you had grown to be.
XIII. Your grandmother warned you of this. With a matter of fact tone and hooded eyes. “Love doesn’t last,” she said. “It begins like lightning. Then grows into thunder. Then, it goes away.” Your cheeks grew warm in anger. You persisted, accusing her of lying.
“Why are you still married then?”
“There’s no one to take care of him.”
Your mother gave you the same response.
XIV. You wanted to prove yourself different. You didn’t wish to believe that age strips you away from the passion you felt to be your birthright. If all was fair in love and war, where did they go wrong?
XV. You tell him you love him every night. And he reminds you of what your parents lost. The realization of romance is long past, but you engulf yourself in the details of his life. You both laugh at the tiniest jokes and whisper desires that tangle up your bones with his. You’ve known him for so long. But you are not one. You both are two wholes, holding onto each other like stars falling into black holes.
You are constantly discovering why the darkness is so beautiful.
XVI. You talk about the past, the future, the what if’s, the tragedies. You talk about the minor memories buried in the corners of your mind when you can’t sleep, he tells you stories that eventually make you rest.
XVII. You are no longer a cynic in disguise. But you have yet to reach the age of heartbreak. Until then, you dare not think about the possibilities your family gave you. You will not acknowledge the two-way street stereotypical love bestows upon the masses. You want your own chances. You are not them.