Since we met, I’ve fallen in love with somebody new about once a week. But it started with you.
You, the guy who travelled through three countries in an afternoon to be with me. You, the guy who sang in supermarket checkout lines and didn’t care who turned to stare. You, the guy who twirled me around, teaching me to dance like they do in the black and white movies. You never chastised me when I messed up the steps (again), you just tittered and made a show of yourself to distract from my embarrassment. You, the guy who made the talk meaningful, giggles easy, trust simple.
I fell in love with you hard, and fast. Willingly. I was ready to love. I chose you.
And I continued to fall, even after you told me that you were seeing somebody – kinda. Maybe. You didn’t know how to describe it. Of course, I didn’t let you know I’d already fallen too deep to care about the details. Just nodded, changed the subject. Pretended I’d never heard it in the first place. Carried on falling in love because it felt too good not to: it didn’t matter that you didn’t feel the same. Or that you did, and you just couldn’t do anything about it. Wouldn’t.
Since then falling in love has been a lot easier.
I’ve fallen in love with the guy who sends letters with passages from his favourite books. Once a week the mail delivery throws my heart into my throat; as I tear open the envelope I decide to love him, and I think of you.
I’ve fallen in love with the friend I slept with when I shouldn’t have, one night long ago, right before he moved away. I saw him, by accident, when he was home, at a place neither of us should have been. When our eyes met his cheeks flushed in a way that made him so handsome. I fell for him, too, and I didn’t say goodbye when I left. I wondered what you were doing, and who you were doing it with.
I’ve fallen in love with the guy I used to work with. And the guy I see sometimes at the coffee shop I go to write. And the guy I’ve never met, but somehow became a friend on Facebook and leaves well-timed comedic comments on whatever I post. I fall in love with him as I spend minutes typing and re-typing a suitably witty response, and then I click on to go check your profile.
It’s always going to be you, even when I’m busy pretending to love somebody else.
When we said goodbye, I didn’t look you in the eye. I let you tell me that you thought I was incredible. You loved my mind, the way I thought, everything, you said. And I said nothing. I looked to the right of your shoes, at the floor, and folded my arms. I had to concentrate really, really, hard. I knew that if I forgot myself for a second, a single moment of spontaneous, emotion-fuelled honesty, I’d tell you that before you there was nobody else, not really, not compared to this, and that everybody after you will be measured by your effortless laughter on adventures that gave us bruises on our legs, and the 4 a.m. stories you told on foreign beaches. They will be sized up by how quickly they can ascertain that I’m not being rude or sarcastic, I’m trying to figure out something true, because that’s just what I do, and their knowledge of musical theatre will be compared to yours, their willingness to talk about what scares them contrasted to you. All of it will come back to falling in love with you.
I’ll look for guys with parts of your whole, systematically collecting their bits to assemble in the guilty secret of my mind. I’ll wish they were you. They won’t be. I’ll settle for pieces.
The one with the letters treats me with the same reverence you gifted me. The one with the blushing cheeks gets nervous with the same naivety as you. The one at the coffee shop doesn’t stand up straight, either. You control how I feel about everybody else, the One in amongst all the other ones.
But we never happened. And that’s okay.
It has to be, doesn’t it?