You grow up thinking that love is going to read like a poem.
You think that you will burst out of your skin with soliloquies the first time someone else’s lips touch yours, that the feeling of skin upon yours will be such a tragic and endearing inspiration. You are certain, when you’re young, that love will be the ultimate muse – the pursuit of something bigger than the feeling itself. The inspiration for a great work of art.
You grow up writing verses – of the boys you hope to kiss, the lives you hope to live, the words you’re sure your life will eventually fill into. You grow up on stories that you tell yourself about how life is going to go and then you’re wholly unprepared for when it happens.
Because here’s what they don’t tell you when you’re young – real love is never poetic.
Poetry fills up the spaces where love is not. Poetry stands in as an eloquent pattern disguised as love, wherever we wish that it existed. Poetry is the eternal reaching and trying to bridge the places between ourselves and the love that we want, thinking that if we can simply find the right prose or soliloquy, it will make up for those unreachable chasms. The ones that grow in between ourselves and the people we wish to be closer to.
Here’s what surprised me the first time I fell in love: Real love was quiet. Real love was falling asleep beside someone at three a.m. without a question or a thought plaguing my mind because something about him made the entire world go silent. Real love wasn’t idyllic or lyrical; it didn’t ebb and flow. Real love was strangely unassuming. Oddly unapologetic. Inexplicably unprecedented and somehow capable of filling all the corners that poetry never could. It was just there. It was simply enough.
Real love wasn’t the over-romanticized poetry I wrote about every boy who preceded him. It wasn’t the metaphors I sat up at spinning at night, it wasn’t the over-exaggerated stories I spun for my friends, it wasn’t the tragic, romantic defence of the relationships I knew were so wrong at their painstaking core. Real love didn’t twirl or sparkle the way I always hoped that it would. Real love was the simple experience of lying in bed beside him and not having to want for a thing.
Real love was hard. Real love was arguments that weren’t born of passion, they were stark practicality – we can’t afford this and we’ll over-exert ourselves with that. Real love was work – it was laying down compromises, bargaining for changes, letting pride knock you down and build you back up more times than you could ever have possibly imagined while you were off writing poems about first kisses. Real love was about learning more about yourself than you ever hoped to find out and getting down to the core of how to jive two lives together. Real love wasn’t easy. And sometimes there was nothing beautiful about the struggle.
Silence isn’t golden when you’re sitting at the dining room table wringing your hands and your heart, trying to figure out what else you have in you to give. Love doesn’t conquer all when everything is falling apart and you can’t figure out how to put it back together. There are no poetic verses that describe our greatest pains – there is only pain itself, stark and confronting in all of the ways our words are not.
Real love wasn’t anything like what you read about in novels – it wasn’t frantic dashes to the airport or vehement confessions of affection. Love wasn’t the overarching saviour of every story that I walked into. Love was simple and grounding when it showed up, disappointing and empty when it left. Real love inspired me to be more than I ever imagined I’d become, but it never made words bleed onto a paper. Love didn’t have to invent upon itself. It was the first thing that ever simply felt like enough.
Love was nothing like I expected it to be and for that I am grateful. All the poetry on earth cannot describe the simple finding a home inside of somebody else – of ending each day with a hug and a few quiet words that make you feel like it’s all going to work out okay. Of standing beside another person through each of your downfalls and triumphs. Of settling in beside someone you’re comfortable with on a lazy Sunday morning with a book and a quiet understanding that there’s nothing that needs to be said. It doesn’t read like a poem but in that moment it’s all that you need.
I knew I’d lost love the day I began writing poetry about him again.
Poetry fills up the spaces where love is not. And the truest affection doesn’t have to verse a thing.