I learned what I believe to be the truth
about love almost entirely by accident, by virtue of the fact that I had
realized that love is not always a two-way street. And that
As a teenager I was in love with the most remarkably beautiful man I'd ever seen. He was years older than I was. I used to see him at church, back when I
went to church and he went to church, and my God, was he beautiful. No one else
seemed to agree. He was tall, slender. He had brown hair, brown eyes, beautiful
hands. I could never do his smile justice with mere words, never. I first
noticed him after thinking he looked an awful lot like the boy who had most
recently broken my heart. He doesn't look much like him, of course,
but at the time everyone looked like him.
I liked him.
The whole thing scared my best friend, who mocked me at every turn, and sort of amused my mother, who grew
fond of reminding me of the rather large age difference and the fact that he
had finished college twice over while I was still in high school. None
of that mattered. I, undeterred, spent large amounts of time thinking of him even though we'd
never spoken. It was a crush at this point and I knew it and I never would have
called it anything other than that. I was observing him from afar and nothing
more, taking stock of how he laughed softly to himself when he thought no one
was watching and of how gentle and soft his voice was, of the way he'd dote on
his mother, of the way he was
unabashedly interested in nerdy things.
I would write about him in my diary, not understanding what on earth was
drawing me to someone I didn't know at all. I needed someone to think about, I suppose, and he was someone to think
about, and he was pleasant and intelligent and just my sort of good looking and
that's all I needed. I was 15. There were less savoury characters about whom I
could have been thinking. My mother spoke of the age difference as though it
made him some sort of drug lord, but that didn't matter. I had a crush on him.
That's all there was to it.
Then he actually spoke to me.
I don't even remember what he said -- it was most likely some pleasantry or
another, most likely related to the fact that it was Christmas -- but that didn't matter. He had, for some few seconds, focused
his attention on me. My mother introduced him to me then, in a sort of
"I don't think you've met my daughter" way, and he smiled at me.
Before he left, he wished me a merry Christmas, and I was giddy for hours. He
started to talk to me more frequently after that, just average small talk
typical of semi-acquaintances who have nothing much in common. I didn't care
what it was; it was making me
When I was 17 and applying to universities and he found out that my first
choice somewhere he was familiar with, he became extremely
forthcoming with advice and encouragement. Once I got in, he was extremely
forthcoming with yet more advice and encouragement. We suddenly had things to
talk about and notes to compare.
He hugged me that Christmas.
He went to say goodbye to me and I was extending my hand to shake his when I
realized that he seemed to be initiating a hug. By the
time I noticed that, he'd noticed that I was about to shake his hand and
switched course. And then, in the midst of that mess, there was a hug and time
stopped. I wish I could tell you what went through my mind during those few
seconds or even how long it lasted, but I have no idea.
Once, not long after I finished my second year, he was asking me how things
were going. I didn't have a job for the summer yet, a fact that was not
pleasing to my mother, and I mentioned this, as well as the fact that it was
not pleasing to my mother. How this led to me explaining my extreme
introversion, I'm not sure, but he listened and nodded and said that things
were going to be all right.
When he was leaving, he bade me farewell and turned to go;
"thanks," I said, not really intending for him to hear it. He did,
turned back and smiled at
me. A simple moment, yes, but I would treasure it for quite some time. There was
this overwhelming sense of grace about him, a sort of grace that I had never
seen another human being possess. People such as that should be treasured. I
treasured him. He just didn't know it. It was as though, as I described it to a
friend, he was on some other, higher, better plane of existence and something
had gone miraculously wrong in order for me to even be able to see him.
It was almost like being in love. It was its own kind of
being in love. I know it was, and you can't tell me it wasn't. You didn't feel
it. How do you know what it felt like?
I would hear his mother tell my mother things about him and his life and it would make me unjustifiably sad. I worried about
anyone breaking his heart because I did not want his heart broken. I lived in fear
that he would marry someone, not because I had any real hope for a future with him,
but because that would make it even more wrong for me to feel the way I did.
I always sort of knew it was silly, you know. There was certainly no
shortage of people reminding me of that. Then, after hearing second-hand that
he was concerned about his his future, something occurred to
me: unrequited love is not necessarily a bad thing, and just because someone
doesn't love you back doesn't mean they don't receive the love you have for
them. Ignorance or a lack of knowledge is really irrelevant.
Sometime before this saga began, when I was still pining for the boy who
broke my heart and started this chain reaction, a friend was trying to
console me. It seems ridiculous now, but at 15 a simple "sorry, I'm
just not into you like that" is soul-destroying. I needed a mega
dose of inspiration and I needed it fast.
"Want to hear something amazing?" my friend asked. "Every
night, before he goes to bed, someone is thinking of you."
I was confused.
"No, really," she went on. "If there is, as they say,
someone for everyone, and if everyone thinks of the person he or she
is going to spend the rest of time with, someone is thinking of you
before he falls asleep. Even if he doesn't know you. Even if he doesn't
actually end up with you."
In retrospect, the logic behind that was clearly flawed. Nonetheless, the
general sentiment stayed with me: everyone has, over the course of his or her
life, loved someone from afar. The one real benefit of loving someone from
afar is to provide some kind of happiness, however temporary, to the person
doing the loving from afar. But if, as many in this world are fond of saying,
people do not "find love -- love finds" them, there is perhaps some
benefit to the person being loved from afar as well.
I am, unlike my grandmother, not a religious person. My grandmother --
before her memory started to fail -- used to pray for
everyone. Family, friends, people she met in stores, acquaintances, total
strangers, people she saw on television. Everyone. I used to ask why.
"Because everyone needs to be prayed for," she would say, "and
not everyone has someone praying for them."
Regardless of one's views on prayer, everyone needs love. And, as my Gram
might say, not everyone is giving all the love that they should or getting all
the love that they need.
If you ever find yourself wondering how and why you started to have feelings
for someone even though you know it's downright hopeless, chew on this: if
you love them, really love them, you won't let that stop you. They may even
need that love more than you know, even if they don't know where it's coming from.
Am I insane? Maybe. But all I know is that for as long as I loved that man,
I would think of it in the sense that he was getting the benefits of that love.
Even if he didn't know where it was coming from. It never hurts to have
someone love you. Loving him helped me. It made me feel whole. The only thing
that could possibly make it even more helpful than it was is thinking that
maybe it helped him too.
I'm now in love with someone who
loves me, and I would not trade that for anything or anyone. I always knew I
would know that someone else was worth getting to know when I would feel my
emotional grip on my paramour start to change, and it did. I now think of him as an older brother-type figure. Strangely enough, my previous feelings for him don't really make that weird. It's not weird because he didn't know. I am still forever
sending positive and love-filled thoughts in his direction, you know. The only
difference is that now, they tend to consist of sentiments such as
"Dammit, man, marry her already."
When he does, I'll be first in line with a congratulatory hug and a bottle of champagne.
Because I loved him as I should.
2008: Word has it he is now engaged. And you cannot imagine just how much my heart is bursting with joy for him.