Six Months to Vulnerability

How much do I love you?
How hard must we try
To set into motion
A love divine?

The lights of Atlanta are hazy through the curtains, the noise of traffic in Midtown muffled. I can’t tell if it’s raining anymore, but I’m too tired to care.

“Lee?” Mark reaches out and rests his fingertips on my arm. His voice is gentle, sleepy.

“Mmh?” I curl in closer to him, barely able to make out his face in the dark.

He doesn’t speak for a while, instead brushing his hands across my hair and my arms. It’s starting to worry me, but I can’t bring myself to say anything. I don’t remember feeling so anxious with him than I do now.

He puts his head against mine and takes a deep breath, eyes closed. “I love you. I just…I really, really love you.”

—————

It’s bittersweet leaving yourself open to love, balancing on that ever-present edge knowing it could fall to pieces at any time. It’s tough knowing that because of who you are, and who he is, it could fall to pieces anyway, and it will be completely out of your control.

When I met him, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. Besides a bit of harmless flirting in the cafeteria long before we knew each other’s names, I didn’t really think of him. He wasn’t very approachable, and I wasn’t exactly an open book. He largely left me alone, and I wasn’t about to start a conversation with him unless he initiated it. For the first half of the semester, nothing happened. It wasn’t until midterms that he started talking to me, and as a result, I opened up to him. We talked and created and broke down each other’s walls, slowly but surely. I knew I was falling for him all too quickly, but I couldn’t say it. Not then.

I knew what I was doing, though. The emotional dominoes were in place, and they were already beginning to fall. We spent two weeks tiptoeing along the fine line between being good friends and something more before we both gave in.

The risks were high, and still are. I ended a five year relationship, he ended a twelve-year marriage. We discussed whether or not I should even interact with him on campus the next school year, just to be safe. At some point we realized we were just creating fear for each other to feed on. We wouldn’t last by scaring each other away with what-ifs.

And really, in the course of a life, what does it matter? I would rather be on my deathbed with him by my side than to have the integrity of my undergrad academic record intact. There will always be work. There will always be opportunities. There will always be new places to go. But we will not always exist.