You lock eyes for the first time and smile, but not in a love-at-first-sight way. You don’t swoon or sigh or put your life on hold to stand by the stranger. Instead you look away, heart a little warmer, because you’ve gained a friend; a friend that believes in your intelligence and beauty in incredible silence. You only know because you felt the belief in his gaze. Without you realizing, your memory of him manifests in the simple confidence he instilled. As long as your heart is warm and your confidence streaks, he’s with you. But you don’t see any of this. You just keep living.
Time drains and takes parts of you with it, but never the part that the stranger, your friend, believed in. You feel alone at times, but not in the freezing, striking way that pains others. You’re content with discontent, sadness seems beautiful, and in heartbreak, you find peace. But you don’t realize why. The pit of your stomach is cliche, but that’s the part of your body that seems to pull you: not your head, not your heart, but the calmest, most trusting sliver of your soul. For an unknown reason, the pull makes you know you’re going to be okay.
It could happen on a morning commute or in the darkest, sleepiest moment of the night. It could happen after a run or during a sip of coffee from your small town cafe. But eventually, it hits. The unknown reason umasks in sparkling truth and you feel that the pull has a direction. Towards him. The stranger, your friend, the believer. You confidence and your trust; they pull back to him.
This is not love, this is instinct. A crazy, impulsive realization that shakes you, strong and almost scary. You remember when you looked away years ago and now, head tilted in wonder, you look again. From a safe distance, you try to explain this instinct. You try to back its elusive power with attainable facts. Before long, you start to love him in lists. Your interests, your values, your ambitions, they fit. Everything works, lines up, an even exchange. It’s right. You’re right. The instinct is right. You’re confident.
Then the safety net falls and the distance disappears and you’re standing face-to-face with him in the pouring summer rain. You grasp for the lists to keep you grounded but they’ve fallen below you. His gaze is still incredible and silent and you lose logic in the way it lifts you up.
“I feel like I’m floating,” he whispers one night, and your head and your heart collide with that calm sliver of soul and all three pull towards him now and you want to explode or throw up or cry.
You just keep living. And some days your head clouds and your heart colds with reasons he won’t work or well worn-in defense mechanisms or the foundations of protective walls. You know this internal weather shift well. More than one relationship has ended in it’s wake. It’s winds make you anxious.
But then this time something’s different. In the cliche pit of your stomach, a trusting bit of soul is calm. A single ray of sunshine, it reaches your heart and warms it with a cloak of confidence, the same way his gaze did long ago. You can barely explain it, but you believe in the instinct.
That’s how loving someone with your gut feels.