“And what’s the purpose of your visit to the United States, M’am?”
The question came from a handsome thirtysomething man in official uniform as I handed him my British passport.
“I’ve come to tell a boy that I love him,” I replied.
The Passport Control Man looked up. “What, Ma’am?”
“I said I’ve come to tell a boy that I love him.”
I should have done it when I had chance. I should’ve done it when he stood opposite me after a summer of making memories and shaping the landscape of one another’s lives. But we’d never kissed, never held hands, just… learnt from each other. So I told myself it wasn’t romantic. Then I realised that actually, it was. But I also knew that I couldn’t tell him.
I was celibate, at the time.
He was American.
I was older.
He was seeing somebody.
The Atlantic Ocean is really big.
None of it made sense; logistically, realistically; and anyway, maybe he thought I was a really. great. pal. I became so determined not to admit I’d fallen for him that when we said goodbye, we’ll figure this out, we’ll change each other’s lives again sometime soon, we have to, you altered me, you’re everything, I was so determined not to be honest – my honesty was, quite frankly, far too inconvenient – that instead I practically high-fived him and said, “Well, it’s been rad, dude. PEACE.”
I’d been really angry with myself in the days since.
I loved somebody and I kept the words to myself because I was scared. I’m better than that. I know that when those special people cross our paths you have to acknowledge it. I needed to acknowledge that this guy? The one who had my heart and soul and brain in knots? He made me scared because he made a believer out of me – and once you believe it’s really hard to go back.
Love’s a fucker that way.
I started to give myself weekly pep talks. I reasoned that it was the infatuation of having something just far enough out of reach that it was safe to feel so strongly. But then, I’d wake up to late-night emails that said, “Then I remembered that I love you. Then I remembered that you are one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met and I wanted to tell you that.”
So I wrote about my feelings, because I don’t know what I think about anything until I put it into an 800-word story. I held my breath to see what he would say.
He said all the perfect things.
“You were the freestyle, expressive, wonderful and impulsive woman that everyone fell instantly in love with… I thought I was another fanboy you had decided to indulge. I revered you and your magical way of approaching the world. I looked to you for guidance.”
“I got pulled into your magnificent aura. You made me better and brought out a part of me I’ve always wanted to be.”
“Thank you. Thank you for everything. Everything that you are and everything you have done… The one thing I know is that I love you.”
When you write to somebody to say they altered the way you saw the whole wide world, and they write back to say words kinder and braver than you ever hoped to hear, you can’t not book a last-minute plane ticket to cross that ocean and look them in the eye to say it.
I love you.
I landed, and let four days pass before I voiced it. We sat in a park and I took a breath and I said I JUST NEED TO TALK ABOUT MY FEELINGS FOR A MINUTE, except that minute was actually an hour, and by the end of it we knew he was special to me and I was special to him, and no – we can’t work around the geography. Maybe we will one day. But not now. Just knowing how the other felt was enough.
I told him that I want nothing from him – he’s there, I’m here, I’m chasing a dream that is not the same as his is. My only motivation was to be brave enough to let myself feel it. I said I think of him when I see Tic Tacs, and hear that song on my Shuffle, and that I spend my time writing letters to him that probably he’ll never see. I told him even dating the seemingly perfect guy all led back to him.
I paid attention, and then I flew home.
I’m writing this down now to say, to you: be brave. Say how you feel. Speak up. That person you are thinking of as you read this? Call them. Write them. Visit them. Make it happen. You can wonder, or you can know. Offer your love. Your respect. Your admiration. Thoughts whispered out loud become truths. Feelings shouted louder become empowerment.
I was terrified. As soon as I hit purchase on the Delta website I could’ve physically vomited. I wasn’t being sensible. I wasn’t behaving as a feminist, freethinking woman “should”.
People don’t just fly to New York to say, “I love you”.
But every single person who has heard this story has said the exact same thing to me: “I wish I had the courage to do something like that.”
Find your courage and reap your reward – even if that reward might not look how you think it might. Love.