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It was September 8th, 2007 at 7:30 pm. Ryan and I sat on a park bench cuddled close together to ward off the pending chill from weather unusually cool for the very end of summer. While we'd known each other for three years, and gotten extremely close, we had been going out for only a little under a month. To me, it felt like an eternity. The way I could talk to him until sunrise about everything, and have him listen, and respond to my inconsequential banter, with some of his own made me sure that this boy was, and always would be my soul mate. The way he understood the parts of me that I was too jaded to show anyone else baffled me, and somehow it still does.
Ryan and I sat on that bench wrapped up in each other, lost in our own thoughts when he suddenly spoke. “Tell me what you’re thinking” he gently asked, peering straight into my eyes. Before I could answer him, something came over me, something more frightening than all of my past fears of time, loss of innocence, and a life of monotony combined. I was overcome with love. I’d spent nearly a year trying to convince myself that I wasn’t in love with this boy. I was in love with my writing, my photography, my music. Something, anything, except for this person, whom I was certain could, and would never love me back.
Looking back into his eyes and seeing with a sudden certainty, and clarity that I was indeed in love, I panicked, and uttered “The sunset, I’m thinking of how beautiful it is”. Instead of doing what’d I’d sworn to him I always would—tell the truth—I lied. I lied in a way so disgustingly shameful and selfish that even as I look back in retrospect, my insides quake at the sheer remembrance. Looking up at him I awaited his response to my obvious lie, and instead of calling me out he simply looked away and asked “do you ever think of me?”
This was my second chance! I had a shot to go back in time, to fix it, to utter the words I’d been so afraid of! I was going to take it, I had to take it. I had to be honest with the one person who had single-handedly changed everything about my life. I owed it to him, to myself, to people like me! Who was I kidding? I was a seventeen year-old girl obsessed with her passions for all things artistic, I wasn’t about to be some hero from a storybook. Instead, I simply looked back up at the sky, and took a sarcastic approach. “Oh of course I always think of you. Every single night before I go to sleep” I gushed, making sure that the use of my beloved sarcasm was as apparent for him as it was for me.
Kicking myself for taking the cowardly road, I simply looked back up at the swirls of gorgeous pinks and purples that I could never manage to mix just right with my paints, and returned the question. “What are you thinking of?” Expecting him to return my sarcasm ten-fold I was stunned into silence by his confession “You”
That one word suddenly unleashed in me something I wasn’t used to feeling around Ryan. I was angry. How dare he not be so moved by my very presence that it made him so tongue-tied, so loopy that he couldn’t stutter, or lie to me. The nerve of him! Unable to voice my anger for fear of seeming like the wicked witch of the west, I simply looked at him, and smiled. We stayed like that for an immeasurable amount of time, us simply staring at each other. Me with unreadable eyes, clouded with love, want, anger, fear, pain, hurt, sadness, and even the one I’d somehow come to fear… regret. Sitting together on the bench, immersed in our own private thoughts of each other until it was too dark to see the outline of the playground, he gently separated himself from me, stood, stretched, turned, and slowly dragged me to my feet.
As he wrapped his arms around me to hug me close, I suddenly wanted to burst into tears right there. It was all so overwhelming. Me loving him the way I did, and yet not being able to tell him because of my sheer fear. Looking down into my eyes, he smiled, took my hand, and we walked towards the car to meet our friends. Leaning against him for the short ride back to his house I suddenly felt as though I truly knew what sadness tasted like. It was a bitter, gut-wrenching liquid that I wanted nothing more than to purge from my system.
As we neared our destination, he suddenly turned towards me and engulfed me in a breathtaking hug that crushed me to him, melting us into one. Instead of simply kissing me good-bye, and then leaving, he leaned towards my left ear and whispered “I love you” blinking, and unable to admit to myself that what I’d heard had actually been said, I hoar sly whispered back “what?!” “I love you” he repeated, this time firmer, almost as though it were a declaration.
Looking up into his gorgeous eyes, I suddenly knew what it meant to be in love. To want that person near you all the time because the thought of them leaving makes you want to break down with uncontrollable sobs. Before I had time to fully process it all, I uttered the words I’d been longing for a year to say “I love you too, Ryan” smiling, he kissed me again, gave me one last squeeze, and exited the car.
As my friend and I drove off, I looked off back towards his retreating shadow, and as I looked back at him, looking at me, I realized what it meant to be in love. I realized why people wrote those disgustingly crappy and cliché songs that I had come to hate. I realized why people went to extreme measures, and did extreme things for the people they professed to love. Loving someone is like giving up a part of you to gain a part of them. And that gain, that knowledge, that love, is what matters most to me.
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