I looked at him and felt this aching pain in the center of my chest. It sunk deep between my lungs, cultivating an incomparable longing for someone only a few inches away from me.
It was an overwhelming feeling, radiating from the middle of my pulsating chest to the churning pit of my stomach. It flushed my cheeks and tickled my fingertips and made it difficult to breathe.
I had looked at him probably a thousand times before I felt this awkwardly comfortable feeling. A thousand stolen glances and seamless stares. A million flirtatious scans and suggestive gazes. But this look — this effortless, happenstance look — it ached.
It hurt and it healed and it throbbed and it soothed and I knew, it was love.
You see, love at first sight is a lie.
It isn’t an instantaneous pulse that vibrates the marrow of your bones. It isn’t a shock you can’t see or a switch someone flipped. It doesn’t come without warning or hit all at once.
Love is slow and long-suffering; lethargically dallying its way to the pit of your chest. It’s in the pit of your chest that love sits, weaving in and out of itself with every fear shared and secret whispered and story exchanged. It builds on itself until it’s substantial enough for us to take notice. It grows until it’s heavy enough to weigh on us, like a looming deadline that forces action.
Love isn’t something that can be brought on by sight. No, love is a feeling you braid with moments you probably overlooked and moments you know you’ll never forget.
When he kisses you goodbye every morning, one strand crosses the other. When she leaves you notes wishing you a great day, another string intertwines.
When you give him a sliver of your vulnerability, everything twists. When she reciprocates, bows are tied and cords are pulled. The beginning of one string and the end of another become interchangeable. Pretty soon you can’t tell where one ends and the next begins.
When you share music another cord tightens. Laces unravel then fold then fuse as a disheveled ball begins to form. You start to feel it grow, pushing its way to the surface. You clench your teeth as if, at any moment, it will escape past your lips and form three small words.
And you aren’t ready for those yet.
When you brag about him strands convolute. An intricate crisscross of patterns form twisted tangles and contorted choils. It all begins and ends in one gigantic knot; overlooked at first and now dangerously close to being so prevalent you won’t remember a time it didn’t exist.
And then it begins to burn, like kinding caught too close to an open flame. Maybe you’re too close to him or he’s too close to your heart or you’re too close to an allusive feeling. All you know now is that it burns; slow and steady and painfully and deliciously.
It burns in a way you hope never stops. And that’s when you start to feel the ache.
The radiation from my chest that tickled fingertips and flushed cheeks was a love knot. Woven over time and circumstance, impossible to unravel without causing irreparable damage. Good or bad, it would always leave a mark. The way love only can. It was terrifying and pleasant, empowering and incapacitating.
I looked at him and knew there was only one thing left to do. I took a deep breath and I picked two open-ended strands and I pulled. I tied the knot tighter. It hurt and it healed and it throbbed and it soothed and I said:
This is love.