A broken heart happens best in the sunshine. Not anguish (better left for quiet snow or thunderstorms), but the gentle and slow breaking of a heart into tiny splintered shards. Bright blue skies and a feather dusting of clouds whisper of regret. Walking out into the daytime reminds you that the aching in your chest is not universal, it’s inside of you, and life is happening with joy to be had. Lovers are experiencing each other. Children are growing up and people are growing old. In the sunshine is the promise that it will go away, and get better, and then the pain comes harder, because you know that you’ll have forgotten.
* * *
I remember the first, and one of the few times, I fell in love. Her name was Christiana. Yes, her name; love doesn’t always recognize genitals and sex hormones, and it doesn’t always play fair. She was a dance instructor at my school in Berlin, and she was beautiful. The more I separate myself from then, the more I see she wasn’t conventionally pretty, rather she was very striking. I’d never felt like that before, but not knowing any better, I threw myself into it. I brought her little presents, and wrote her fun notes.
I think that more than anyone else I've ever loved, I showed her, without ever saying 'I love you.' When I was to leave the country, I bought her a bouquet of roses in pink and yellow and white. Bright colors that reminded me of her. Like the perfume she wore (or maybe it was her natural scent, but I’ll never know now). I cried in her arms, and she stroked my hair, probably never knowing that I had fallen in love with her. I never told her.
I like to watch the people I love, slyly, from the corner of my eye. I like to watch their facial expressions change: sadness. . . delight. I like to hear them breathing from across a room. I like to give them things and make them remember me. Those people, I’d follow them forever, like I would have followed Christiana, and all that time, they’d never know why I was smiling.
Because I’m usually too afraid to tell them.
I don’t mean significant others, because the acceptable passion existing there facilitates admissions of love. Out of that are born the wet-lipped, breathy I-love-yous. No, I’m scared of the quiet ones, that come out of long walks at night, or sharing a book, or simultaneously thinking the same thing. When a toddler hugs your knees and the world is just right for that split second. When you ache for affection and there’s a friendly shoulder.
I am afraid of what people might say, the rejection or the fear in their eyes. Oh no, they’ll think, she wants something. It implies need, and responsibility. Strong bonds are formed with and around those words, too strong for families, sometimes. Society dissuades us from letting friendly and familial affections grow beyond a certain point. I, we, you and I, keep our mouths closed and the words inside and look at each other from across the gulf, showing, never telling, like perverts or adulterers.
So, what will you do when they are gone? Will you ask yourself if they knew? If you properly conveyed your feelings in a manner consistent with what is "normal"?
I’ve fallen in love since the first time, though not often, and mostly with people like Christiana: inaccessible, wrong, belonging to another. And I sit next to them, sharing, always on the verge of letting 'I love yous' slip out, but mostly still too afraid. But sometimes, after conversations heady with liquor, or whatever else, it comes out, strongly, and when I’m lucky, they reply in kind.
Let them know, say it in words, for tomorrow may be too late. Then what will you do?
This node was inspired by and is dedicated to Chris-O