There is a spot in the park where all the couples go to sit with each other. The spot in question is in the shade of a large, gnarled tree with branches that twist up toward the sky as if they’re fingers reaching towards the bright sunshine. It is in this shade that they picnic, laugh, and share tender kisses. It is a spot I have never been able to visit with another in a romantic fashion.
When I sit under the same shade that has cast over countless moments between lovers that bond them together, I hear the echoing whisper of all the loves I could have let slip away. I hear the missed opportunities, and the proclamations of love I was never able to return. In a way, I hear my failure in the most complex emotion humans are supposed to feel.
I had once asked a girl I adored in middle school to a Valentine’s Day dance. I pulled out a piece of paper from my Five Star notebook and wrote a note that said all the things my shyness would have prevented me from. She responded, in turn, with a note of her own, “sure.” I spent the weeks leading up to the dance picking out the perfect outfit; I even went to a local florist and bought her a corsage made of pink carnations.
Arriving at the dance, my armpits were already soaked through my powder blue button-up. I walked to the back of the cafeteria where the dance was being held, and asked a chaperone if I would be able to store the corsage in the fridge in the teacher’s staff room. When my date arrived, I quickly ran to the fridge to retrieve my gift. She slipped it on and asked if she had to wear it. I think I had thoroughly embarrassed her with my overt display of affection. We danced in a circle with the rest of our friends for the night, even during the slow dances, but I remember thinking she was the prettiest girl there. I remember looking around at all the couples keeping an uncomfortable distance from each other as they placed their hands on each other’s hips and shoulders. Even then, as I stood in the center of the dance floor with my group, I wanted to sway like all of them, I wanted to sway just as carelessly as they did.
A few days later, my date ended up telling me that she only saw me as a friend, and that my advances were making her uncomfortable. In retrospect, I outgrew my embarrassment…and even later on, my false ideology that I was attracted to women. However, I still feel similarly to how I felt back then, I still feel as if I am lacking where everyone else in my age group has excelled. I see all the shiny, happy couples with their joyous smiles and mutual attraction, and I can’t help but feel as if I missed something, or someone, along the way. Was there a moment where I completely veered off the course of young love and stopped cultivating my life in that aspect?
You know the type of couples I speak of, they clog your social media feeds and at every house party, they’re the ones in the corner whispering sweet nothings as you down a PBR. They are there hidden in unstoppable beer pong teams, and corner make out sessions. They’re there in shiny hair, bright teeth smiles, and the eyes that never betray their joyous exterior. They exist outside of their joy to remind us of what society tells us we’re supposed to want; what society says we’re missing out on. As bitter as I may sound, I know I want to be like them. I want to know how it feels to have someone on speed dial when I have food poisoning and no one else will get me Gatorade. I want to know what it is like to have consistent, emotionally attached sex and I want to know what it feels like to love someone so much you can’t stand the sight of them certain days.
Valentine’s Day exists to remind each other of all the reasons love is one of the most sought after emotions there is. It is the day we hold the ones we adore close, and smother them in potent smelling flowers and Reese’s (Peanut Butter) Cups. It is a day I realize I can celebrate without a significant other. I have friends, and close family and acquaintances I can show that I adore. I can bring my friends large boxes of chocolate, and wine, and with them, I can cry over a cheesy Ryan Gosling film. Right now, I don’t know what it is like to be half of a whole, the type of couple that people are jealous of. But, for all those out there who know what it feels like to be loved that much, take your lover to a spot underneath a tree where the shade will hide all of the beautiful secrets your love possesses. Do it for all the people who can’t do that with a loved one just yet, but hope that someday soon they can.