My hair was longer then. I miss it now. Kylie looked happier than I've saw her in months. I was still smiling and laughing with high school friends I no longer see. And Kyle... Kyle didn't really look alive yet. There were glimmers of that beautiful, vibrant spirit in him that I already loved, but he spent most of that trip sunk deep in the old depression that took us months to overcome. And there are even a few shots where you can see the pleading in my eyes, the desperate hope that one day he would look at me and see all the love I was harboring as the potential for another chance at being happy.
Seeing him like that, caught in the phase between longing for a girl from the past and learning to love me, made me remember how I felt in that torturously prolonged in-between. Those few months were the darkest hell I've ever known. I cannot count the nights I fell asleep with tears on my cheeks and a pillow hugged to my chest; I cannot begin to fathom the number of my smiles that were only half-felt; and I really don't know how I found the patience and courage to make it to the place I have reached today.
You see, I did not fall in love in any of the usual ways. When I fell in love with Kyle, it was in one instant during the latter half of our senior year. It was fast and sharp and without warning. It took my breath away, and in that moment I knew my life was going to change. I just didn't know how. Oddly enough, until that moment, we had hardly spoken, and ever since I have been convinced that there is indeed a form of destiny or fate, perhaps even a "divine plan."
Kyle, however, didn't fall in love so quickly. He had to fall out of love with an old idea first, and waiting around for that was wretched. There were times when I would talk to him, and he'd look straight through me, and I would know he was thinking of someone else. There were days when I could see the pain settling around him, and I'd want nothing more than to hold him and soothe it away, to see the suffering end no matter what it took. At that point, I didn't really understand my love for him. I didn't know where it came from, or what it meant. All I knew was that I wanted to see him smile because that smile...it made the world slow down. It made things make sense. It made me feel at peace for the first time in my life. And so I set out to fix his broken heart, and in the process mine came to life.
Upon discovering the many trials that Kyle was experiencing, my friends and I brought him into our circle. The initial goal was just to make sure he had people to lean on: to let him know he wasn't alone. However, as they discovered one by one the way I felt, that goal changed. For the first time in my life, I didn't deny the feelings I was experiencing, not even to myself. The stakes were too high this time. I knew that graduation was quickly approaching, and I couldn't bear the possibility of not seeing him again. (Not even a few weeks in and already life without him seemed impossible to face. I never stood a chance, really...) So I made sure that it wasn't an option for me to disappear from his life, and my friends helped push him in the right direction. (What are they for, eh?)
Within a matter of weeks we'd become close, and I knew that while all I really needed was to see him happy, I'd be a fool to ignore that I ached to be the girl that kept him that way. Eventually, I reached a breaking point. Kyle was completely oblivious to the massive-yet-subtle effort at matchmaking, and I am not the blunt type. I needed him to see me without me throwing myself at him. I needed to know that if we were to be together it was because he wanted me because I am me, not just because I was the first opportunity to present itself. I knew that something had to change if we were going to work...but I didn't know what to do.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the part of the story that I am most shocked by, even now, having lived it. This is the part in which I did something I hadn't resorted to in years. This is the part where I swallowed my pride, sank to my knees, and prayed that his broken heart would mend. It may not seem like much to you, but believe me when I say that it is. (My experience with religion has not been a good one, and I am more than a little reluctant to reimmerse myself in it. This however, is food for a different post.) I cried as I pleaded and hoped with the purest and most selfless of intentions I have ever had. And you know, I honestly think that is what finally made the difference...the fact that my tears weren't only for myself. You could call it talking with God, or you could simply call it some sort of personal catharsis...whatever you wish it to be, that act, recognizing what my heart really wanted, was what made me realize what defines a love as being true.
I made a sort of bargain that day, whether with God or myself I'm not entirely sure, but either way it stands: If I could have this one thing, if I could have his love in return, then I would withstand whatever else was thrown at me. Having him beside me would make me strong enough to face any obstacle. This change of attitude is the final straw to which I accredit our coming together. (Well, you know, when you set aside silly, romantic notions like fate and destiny.) Because of it, I knew I could not give up -- that I was in far too deep to walk away without a real effort. I think in some of my darker days of lonliness I forget that. I think I honestly forget that I knew what it was like to really be alone once. Even now I am not in that horrifying a place.
One day, not long after we first started dating, while I was still basking in the shock of it all and not entirely convinced it was really happening, I remember telling Kyle, "You could break me." He just kissed my hand as a reply, but I don't think he really knew what I meant. I didn't only mean that he could break me...I meant that he was the only thing left that could break me. Life without him was something I had already faced, and something I knew I couldn't survive while still remaining whole.
Eventually, with time, he grew to understand exactly how deep my love ran. I don't think he quite believed me at first. I can't really blame him. I wouldn't have believed it either, given the circumstances. And now I think we both share a faith in our love that keeps us strong.
It is miraculous, the way we came together (both so quickly, and after a lifetime of waiting), and at the perfect time: just as our childhoods closed and the next chapter in our lives began. Just barely at the point at which we were both prepared for a real commitment. I honestly believe I am the luckiest woman in the world to have found him, and to love and be loved so deeply. I know it's a rare thing, a bond like ours, and I don't take it for granted for a second... I can't. Not when I know how empty life would be otherwise. It's a prize worth every bit of its price and more, because with his love I can meet every demand of our sometimes enormously challenging life. That was, after all, my end of the bargain, and I wouldn't trade what I have for anything.