You thought I was trying to be haughty by not saying anything when I first saw you. In reality I merely didn't know what to say, so I said nothing, trying not to mess up yet again.

Somehow my usual strategy of staying silent backfired. You made me laugh, with your exaggerated accent and funny metallic-dotted grin. You reminded me of a best friend's older brother, somewhat protective, experienced in life, snaring my attention despite myself. I wanted to make you laugh.

You took me out in the mule after I refused to play chicken on the trails, scaring me by nearly crashing into trees and occasionally getting stuck. While we waited for the engine to cool because it overheated again and we were stuck in mud, you asked me to tell you something about me. I told you I didn't know where to start- how interesting could the life of a sheltered bookworm be to you, someone who has crammed so much experience into so little time? But I stared at the moon as you lit another cigarette and told you about one of my more shaming experiences, namely a high ropes course I tried to navigate before a group of peers. (I'd wanted to disappear from fright and shame.) I said I hated always being known as "the smart one" (even though I knew I brought it on myself by usually having the right answer in classes and thinking as deeply as I could). You said people will learn to look past that in time and see what's on the inside. But it doesn't really matter because you're pretty already.

That was the first time anyone ever called me pretty. I don't know whether I should believe you or not. Having heard that I "needed to lose weight" or "work on my figure" for years and years- it's hard to break that noose that people have tied around my neck and my heart for so long. But you- you called me pretty. And beautiful. I remember that every time people's words cut me. Someone out there thinks I am pretty.

Thank you for that.

Je t'aime and te amo. (you know who you are.)