You won’t meet in a smoke-filled room that your friend mistakenly advertised as a party and your eyes won’t lock for 1 2 3 seconds when he walks in and loudly announces that he needs a lighter, who can help him out? You won’t reach into your jacket pocket and dive through 4 5 6 conversations to make sure you’re the one who lights the flame; to be certain you’re the one who saves the day. You won’t ask where he’s from (Poughkeepsie) or what he’s smoking (Marlboro Lights) or what his middle name is (James). You won’t watch the smoke-filled room empty until just you and he remain and you won’t hide your enthusiasm when he asks if you’d like to continue the evening elsewhere. You won’t find yourselves neatly folding into one another at 3 AM, leaving half of the queen mattress vacant as his knees find a home in the backs of yours. In the morning, he will not get down on all fours to roll up the bottoms of too-long jeans he’ll loan you so that you don’t have to wear last night’s outfit to breakfast. You will not try to hide your smile as you quietly whisper, “thank you” down at him; you will not do that with your next boyfriend.
You will not call him ‘snooks’ or ‘snuggles’ or ‘scruffs’ or ‘stinky,’ you will not call him ‘bear’ or ‘boo’ because these names belonged to his predecessor, these names belonged to someone old, someone borrowed. You will have new names now, because you don’t name something new after something dead.
With your next boyfriend, you will not spend the entire day in bed together drinking flat beer and watching films neither one of you care about, you will not go on double dates to the zoo and wonder why you’re not as whimsical as the couple accompanying you. You won’t mentally will him to say “I love you” for the first time just because the wind happens to be blowing east and the night has decided to burn brighter than usual and you’re having what feels like the most urgent conversation you’ve ever been half of. You will not instead say “I love you” for the first time somewhere, someway completely unexpected, inconvenient, unromantic like while you’re folding each other’s laundry or picking out a Christmas present for his boss. The first time you think it might not work out, you will not openly weep on a commuter train heading north, heading away from him to a colder place; you will not hesitantly accept a handkerchief from the man who sits next to you, who has probably made someone cry this way once before and knows what it looks like.
You will not wear all black the day you meet his parents for the first time. When that day arrives, you will not drive out to the country and argue over whose iPod is superior while his little sister sits in the backseat, rolling her eyes. You will not silently wish that you’d worn something different, something friendlier. You won’t immediately conclude that his mother doesn’t like you by the way she takes your warm hand in her cold one and shakes it limply, you won’t conclude that it must be the black dress you chose to wear on Easter. You will not make a joke about mourning Jesus that alienates you from his Irish-Catholic family; you will not do that. You will not comfort yourself by befriending Lily, a five-year-old in head-to-toe floral who wants to show you how she writes her name and how to sing the alphabet song and how the skirt of her dress fans when she throws her arms open and her head back and she spins and spins and spins. You will not be exhausted by 7 PM; you will not stare at your next boyfriend from across the dinner table and wonder if you can do this for the rest of your life.
The night of your last big argument, you will not angrily dress [sweater, jacket, gloves] while hoping he has the good sense to stop you before you find your hat. He will not sit five feet away, bemused by the show you’re putting on. “I’m glad you think it’s funny,” you won’t say. You won’t slam his door and you won’t stomp down the stairs; you won’t spin around when you hear him call your name from the top of them. “What do you want?” You won’t hate yourself for sounding so hopeful. He won’t look down on you as you impatiently stand, foot apparently tapping but actually shaking. “You forgot your toothbrush,” he won’t laugh. You won’t give him the finger and walk out for the last time.
Your next boyfriend will not be your last boyfriend, or the one before that. You will wait for him to take you to the same hidden spot in the park and tell you that he loves you like it’s the first time he’s saying it, you will wait for him to trash that television show you like, you will wait for him to voice his mild contempt for your best friend because these are the things you already know about love, these are your barometers, this is what you’ve grown to expect. But when you finally learn that love is not a hand-me-down, when you realize it is tailor fit for your next boyfriend and for you, you will not wish it were any other way.