to love and be loved
When you were 14 years old, you counted 27 beauty marks on your body. You told yourself that you would one day find someone who knew this number by heart, and they would tell you that their favorites were the ones scattered haphazardly across your face (the same marks that got you teased in the fifth grade). You looked forward to how they would kiss each one with a gentleness that could save you.
Over the years, this fictional character became more and more in love with you and you with them. They didn’t really have a form though. They existed in an amorphous way, like a spirit. But they felt like someone you’d met before in a different life, and you had to wait to run into them again. Neither of you would remember you’d known each other in infinite universes, but you would feel a sort of severe nostalgia after the first hello, and you wouldn’t know why.
You’ll feel like you’re falling in love with this person when you show them your favorite song, and they will listen as closely as possible because they know you want them to find that part of you that exists recklessly within those 32 bars. You’ll feel terribly exposed. You’ll wonder if being in love is the same.
Twenty-two, and you’re worried that you’re in the universe where you might not meet this person. Twenty-two, and you start to think you’re in the universe where love has been swallowed whole by the fear of texting back too soon. Twenty-two, and you are told to be more patient. “You’re young, you have years ahead of you.” “Maybe your expectations are too high.” “Have you tried Tinder?” “When you stop looking for love, that’s when you’ll find it.” (This last one is the greatest offender.)
Except you’re 22, and you can’t even imagine how holding their hand could feel both overwhelming and exhilarating. You can’t imagine meeting someone who makes you laugh those big, hearty, hurt-your-stomach types of laughs. You can’t imagine being so naturally at peace in their presence, the kind of peace where all the rattles in your head settle down. You begin to chip away at the person who’s settled comfortably in the corner of your mind because keeping them around has begun to hurt in light of these new fears.
But—and it’s a quiet, whimpering but—you see your friends around you look at their partners like the moon wouldn’t make an appearance at night without their say-so. Some have been in love for six months, some in love for six years. But they are in love. You see it in the way they say, “That’s her favorite movie, too”—like they are the proud owners of the most important fact in the world.
You have been a decent enough person, you think. You believe in good karma. You have gone on enough dates and opened yourself to as many opportunities as possible. You have not done anything in this lifetime for the universe to bar you from love. Don’t feed into a narrative that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, you tell yourself.
So it’s not your fault you have yet to meet the person who loves knowing that your favorite color is yellow, but it will be your fault if you destroy hope because 22 years feels like 22 years too long. It will be your fault if you believe so actively in the loneliness you’ve grown used to. And, most importantly, it will be your fault if you have made this person into someone who gives you something only you can give yourself. Their love for your 27 beauty marks should only add to your own, not exist as a placeholder for it. Maybe it’s been 22 years because you still are not too sure how to do this. Maybe it’ll take a couple years until you do.