This is the second week of a new column called “Modern Love.” Inspired by the beloved New York Times weekly column of the same name, “Modern Love” will share stories of love in any form. Submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
It’s a funny thing when someone eight inches shorter than you has your exact size hands. Her hands were, in fact, the first part of her I fell in love with (and then her nose, but I digress). She firmly believes our hands were made to be put together, and I must agree; linking them feels like safety and good memories.
I read somewhere that 74 species become extinct every day. The author’s argument was that this is a good reason (but not the only one) to hold someone’s hand.
People say lips cannot light fireworks. This is false. While my lips are bad at forming words (I stuttered when I was four), I learned how fireworks existed the first time she kissed me. Her electricity did circuits around my brain, sent pulses down my spine – something I brushed off as an anomaly until the next time she held my hand (and the next, and the next). Somehow, my life had turned into a sappy romance movie (which was a lot for someone whose favorite director is Hitchcock).
But even though the way I said “hello” sounded more like an apology than an acceptable greeting, and even though the letters we wrote back and forth often got caught up on “I am in love with you but I can’t even explain what love is without sounding cheesy,” the relationship I had with her was the most real, raw and honest experience I have ever had. You can’t deny the fear that someone can hear the drum in your chest through your palms. And if that girl sees how beautiful the world is in the same way as you? Dude, you are the luckiest woman alive.
I met her when I joined the Eastern Mass Bill Koch ski league in fourth grade. Championship relay teams, long training sessions, a lot of denied sexual tension and kissing the same boys characterized our friendship prior to our relationship. Sophomore year of high school, I came out to her. Junior year, she came out to me and helped me end a horrible relationship I got myself into. I began to consider her my best friend. My best friend became my girlfriend on a backpacking trip in the Pemigewasset wilderness the summer before our senior year of high school.
When she came out she told me she was scared of being gay; she didn’t want to be gay. So it took me 10 months and then three hours to finally kiss her after figuring out how I felt about her. I included the three hours because they are the most important part: It took me that long to kiss her after she positioned her lips a centimeter from mine. And then, slowly, we forged the millimeters. As soon as she kissed me, I only had three words on my mind: “I” and “love” and “you.”
The night she told me she loved me for the first time, she had come over to my house to make breakfast for dinner, and we watched my favorite movie, American Beauty, the film that changed the way I saw the world. As we watched it (or I should say she watched, I was watching her most of the time) we linked hands and I fought the urge to kiss her. Later that night, I walked her out to her car, and standing in my driveway with the car door in her hand she looked up at me and softly said, “Rebecca, I love you.” I knew she had never said this to anyone before. This was 18 days after she asked me to date her officially, and a little over two months (minus three hours) since the “I” and “love” and “you” had first barged into my head. Immediately, I said it back.
There is no possible way for me to explain to you how much this girl means to me in 1200 words. Or to describe how the year we spent together was the best year of my life, even through the tragedies that hit our homes. She made all the mountainous worries in my life flow through like the breeze; she made all of the insignificant details circular, beautiful, infinite. And that is the way I loved her – infinitely. I gave her a road map to my secrets and my thoughts. She gave me one back.
For a while it bothered me that I used the same word to describe how I felt about her that I used for how I felt about my parents, my sister, my friends. It took me a while but eventually I figured it out. Love isn’t one set thing. It merely describes the conversations you have with other people without speaking – it is defined and redefined over and over again, morphing to what you need in any given moment. It’s simply an agreement with anyone. It is everywhere and can be as important as you need it to be.
I realize I probably sound like a hardcore romantic to anyone who doesn’t know me. For those of you who do know me, you’re probably shocked, because miscommunicated hookups have characterized my time at the College like the best of you. I guess this is a lesson on not attempting to fit a human into an archetypal box. That’s the other part of love. You understand the person so well you can’t compartmentalize her. The good, the bad: You see it and want it all.
Hopeless romantic or not, you have to admit it’s a pretty incredible thing she now goes to school 99 miles away, but she can still tell what is going on in my head by the way I answer the phone.
I guess my modern love story is an old one. I fell in love when I was 17. I am 20 now, and if I think about it too much I always come back to wanting to spend the rest of my life dancing to her heartbeat under a streetlamp. Even though everything changes, some things stay the same. But also, who knows? I definitely don’t. In one of our recent phone conversations, she told me she thinks college exists to prevent us from marrying the girl we fall in love with when we’re 17.
I’d be lying if I said this story was easy. To be honest, it’s been hell for most of the time I’ve spent at the College. Walking away from her the night before I left for school my first year was the hardest 180 I’ve ever done. Leaving her broke both of our hearts. The breakup was messy. It hurt. She lives 99 miles away now, and remember what I said about love being a conversation? For the most part we’ve stopped communicating.
So what do you do? You pack it up, seal the box and put it on a shelf for later as best you can. Life goes on. But sometimes, you lie in bed on a still night, you hear a train and you can’t help but think, “Come to me, because fingers are made for linking and hands as beautiful as yours should always be connected,” and wonder if the girl 99 miles away can still hear you.