And then there is the boy you fall in love with in college. The one who makes you so hot you get wet just staring at him across the commons. He is the boy who makes you feel sharp, and alive. The one you want to share all of your stories with, read all of your writing to and learn all about philosophers from. He is the one who makes you realize that real people have real bodies, and they get red and blotchy and sweaty and slippery, making all kinds of weird noises that were never included in the Rom-Coms.
He is the boy that you stop shaving everything for, the boy you stop worrying about what your stomach looks like for, the boy you want to do nothing but parade naked in front of and then roll around in bed because he makes you laugh so hard and you can’t get enough of the way his eyes light up when you do.
He is the boy that you will look for every time you’re crossing campus, that you’ll be walking for when you decide to wear your best pencil skirt down to the library, knowing your ass looks like a million bucks and somehow, it will feel like it worked some magic when you sit down to write that paper and open your email to one from him that reads “what are you up to?” and decide the paper can wait.
He is the boy that you will fly across the country for, begging your parents to help you afford a plane ticket out to LA before you head back to Portland because he’s graduated now, but you know if he could just see you and remember you still exist out in the real world that he’ll hold a space for you in it. He is the boy that you will lie naked in bed with, brainstorming about what kind of work he wants and how he can still possibly hold on to the optimism of college.
He is the boy that will make you realize you can be so much stronger than you ever hoped, but also much sadder.
He is the boy that you will write long emails to about e.e. cummings, convinced that you have unlocked secrets about love and the universe just because of the moments you two shared.
He is the boy that will make you realize how disgusting it can feel to be desperate for someone’s love, how lonely.
He is the boy that you will fight for until you learn how to fight fair and honest. The boy that will make you realize that holding a grudge isn’t righteous, it just makes you bitter. And that forgiveness isn’t something you can just talk about. The boy that you will learn how to fight with when you need, to, because you are both people with dreams that sometimes need space to breathe away from each other.
He is the boy that will let out all your soppy dreams about love– the boy that you will imagine a wedding with – where Pachelbel’s Canon will play, and your best friend will take the most beautiful candid shots of your laughing kisses. He is the boy that will make you realize you don’t want any of that because it is phony and commercial and all you really want is to spend every day waking up to his morning breath, making hash browns on the weekend and sometimes going to that little Korean diner where they have omelettes scrambled with kimchi.
He is the boy you will become an adult with. The one who will rub your feet when you come home with tears in your eyes because your job feels tedious and stupid and you’re starting to believe that maybe success and happiness really aren’t renewable resources.
He is the boy that will leave you love notes on your pillows in the morning. That will dig out an extra parking spot in the worst Chicago winter just for you and leave his car protecting it.
He is the boy that you will tell every day that you love him, and the boy that you will start to feel like you are building up out of habit rather than out of passion, and it will scare you.
He is the boy that you won’t be able to stand the thought of leaving. But you will. He is the boy whose heart you will never get over breaking, the boy your own heart will never quite forget. He is the boy who you will secretly think about when you start to figure your own shit out, when you really do start standing on your own two legs, and when you feel ready again to let someone into your life without losing it to them.
And every man after him – every lover, every one night stand and Okcupid match and even the men you meet organically at shows or at work parties who have lively eyes and seem really interested in who you are. All of them, you will compare to him. All of them will have to answer to his memory.