I once read somewhere about the different kinds of love.
For years, I settled for water, the kind I received from the first boy who taught me about love. I knew then what I know now. I loved him. But I was never in love with him.
His touch never made me weak in the knees, but his warmth was comforting and his assurance was my safety. I basked in the safe confines of water because I knew he’d keep me afloat. Still. Safe. Warm.
We grew up being told never to play with fire. I now know why. The first time I allowed myself to take an unprecedented risk when the glowing embers of fire beckoned me, I got burned. Everything about it screamed wrong and yet I dove headfirst into the forest fire that he created. Everything about that love was all consuming. Like everything else didn’t matter.
Every single touch was amplified to reach the core of my soul. I wish I were exaggerating. But it’s really not the case. I felt that much. Not everyone understood, and rightfully so. I mean, who would choose to deliberately get themselves in the line of fire?
But even others’ disapproval or lack of understanding didn’t deter us. We were so wrapped up in each other that all the reasons why it was wrong seemed to pale in comparison to why it was right for us. But that’s just it. For us.
Somewhere along the line of daily midnight rendezvous and an exchange of sweet promises, we forgot. We forgot that there was actually a world outside our own forest fire.
I once asked him why he was with me. In true silent fashion, he always managed to answer with least words than was necessary and yet; they were enough for me.
“Nothing else matters when I’m with you.”
A girl with so much to say ends up content with monosyllable one word responses and grunts and a guy who seems to have so little to say, spoke depths in just a few sentences.
“Nothing else matters when I’m with you.”
I replayed that statement over and over again, feeling my heart double over each time I did. It was true. Nothing else mattered when we were together. It didn’t matter that we were leaving a trail of destruction in our wake. It didn’t matter that our fire had burned even the ones who didn’t deserve it.
When we were together, it’s like gravity ceased to exist and time stopped only for us. We were so out of touch with the world. Floating in our own little bubble of euphoria.
That’s just it, though. Gravity does exist and time stops for no one.
Eventually, a bird at flight lands. Eventually, Icarus gets burned from flying too close to the sun. Eventually, playing with fire will bound to get you hurt.
It happened gradually. First it was time. It went by too fast. College came knocking down too fast before we realized that time had no longer stopped for us. Then it was gravity. It made us land in the reality that there was more to the world than just us. Selfish. That’s what our fire made of us.
“An essence of a person is seen in how one values the feelings of the other more than his own. In other words, selflessness. And you both are selfish.”
That’s something his mother said that I will never forget. I’m no saint, but I never intended to live life as a selfish person either. It broke me when we ended. Like my whole world suddenly felt off balance. People ask me why I ended it in the first place.
My answer: because I’m done being selfish.
We were both selfish to hurt people who didn’t deserve it and I was even more selfish to make him torn about it. And I knew him enough to know he wouldn’t end it himself. He once told me I knew him better than everyone else, even more than he knew himself.
He was right about that. I always knew that he was destructive. I know that he enjoys the occasional buzz or euphoric high when confronted with emotional turmoil he chooses to bottle up. I know that he’d opt for touches in throes of passion than a passionate exchange of words. I know that he finds great distraction in the pursuit of women he has no plans to love. I know that indifference and denial is his greatest defense for overwhelming emotions.
I know because his demons are well acquainted with my own.
Yet I also knew that despite all that, he is genuinely kind at heart and that he’d never choose to deliberately hurt someone. That’s how I knew he was torn by being with me and that’s how I knew he wouldn’t fight me when I broke it off.
When we ended, he told me that he loved me still, and probably always will. But I was a reminder of all the wrong we’ve done and he said it hurt too much to be happy with me knowing it was at the expense of other’s happiness. He couldn’t have said it better.
I completely understood. I see it now. We were so blinded by our fire that we forgot about everything else. And that’s just it. Our fire burned too bright, it burnt out too soon. No fire lasts forever. Even forest fires eventually lose their embers, leaving only a trail of destruction along their wake.
I would never regret him, though. I wouldn’t change anything, even if I could. Years from now, when we’ve both fully recovered from that fire, I’d see him happy with someone else and I know I’d still feel something short of nothing and everything at once.
But I also know it won’t hurt anymore.
I’d probably steal a glance and smile at myself seeing him at peace with someone he can love without wreaking havoc at the world. I’d be happy because by then, I’d know better.
I always found the elemental comparison of the different kinds of love fascinating. I’ve had a try at water and although it was safe, it was just settling. I’ve survived a forest fire and I live to tell the tale, but I wouldn’t want to set another forest ablaze again.
Air is probably the most downplayed. It’s essential. It keeps us alive. It’s not tangible, but you can feel it. I found that kind of love to be one you can only find when you find God. You can’t see his love, but you can feel it and it keeps you alive. And for now, that is enough.
But since I was never one to go for the norm, I always had this penchant for trying to understand the core of things. I’ve found the perfect elemental comparison I would prefer for love. Earth.
I would prefer a love that has me rooted to the world. A love that grows like a tree. One whose branches don’t just restrict to me and consumes me. I want to fall in love as my own and not just as a part of someone else.
I don’t want to grow as one unit, nor do I want to outgrow as two different people. I want to grow together, as separate individuals.
You see, trees planted too close fight for nourishment and ends a tiny bonsai, and that’s what happens when you feed off your dependency on someone else. But the sturdy trees know their place enough to grow big on their own and still end up together with their branches overlapped in the end.
Growth is a process and one I’m willing to see through. It’s having lows and making mistakes and constant fuck ups, but rising up to it together. I don’t want to feed off of constant confirmation of some else’s affection for me to feel love. I want to grow, for I long to overlap with his branches one day.
I don’t want to just fall into love, I want to grow into it and I believe there is nothing better than to be in a relationship where you are secure enough to help each other grow.
I’m telling you this because I wish someone had told me this. Safety and security is fine, but never settle for less than you deserve. Passion and all-consuming emotions are great, but please do not lose yourself in the process of loving someone else.
You are your own before you are another’s. Grow into love. Work on yourself and have love meet you while you’re at it.