“You are the light I’ll never see
You are the star I’ll never reach
But shine anyway”
(Untitled, unfinished song. Imagined sung with slight distortion)
I didn’t want to attend the gathering. The lure of food could not surmount the awkwardness of intersecting with an already established friend circle. As the couple invited me, my mind had decided “no” even as my mouth declared “maybe.” But moments before the event started, a tiny voice spoke up. “Go. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it’s protracted. You need human interaction to be blessed and be a blessing.”
So I went. Everything went exactly as dreaded. As I shriveled around conversations, cajoling the couch to consume me, you left your spot, left your friends, to sit beside me. The impossibility startled me. Girls didn’t approach me. Girls didn’t address me.
As we talked, the tiny voice returned, “Pay attention, Kyric. She’s special.”
When we chatted, I engaged. When you queried others, I listened. I expanded my circle of activities, overlapping yours. If a hint existed of your attendance, I made an appearance. You were always pleasantly surprised to see me.
For months, we orbited each other, playing our shy, silly game. The night we converged—just us two, your smile warming me long after your arms released me—you whispered, “Let’s do this again.” In that moment, no light of heaven could have matched my elation.
It was a cold night, too, when you told me we were over.
I told you not to worry about me. You told me you would anyway. I loved you a lifetime over in the span of a heartbeat. I didn’t cry then and was pleased. I have cried many times since and am pleased with that too.
I am hopeless at expressing myself in the moment. Words cannot be finagled, altered, voided, repurposed to convey perfect meaning. I was unable to say all I wanted then. Let me now:
Thank you for participating in my family’s tradition of sending and receiving “home safe” texts after we leave each others’ presence. Thank you for sitting at my elbow, where the barest extension of my fingers reached you. Thank you for getting so invested into shows, making expressions more enjoyable to watch. Each facet you permitted me to see was a blessing. Our weeks together were some of my brightest memories.
You made me believe in love once more. From youth, I’d convinced myself I was unlovable. Nobody could possibly want to journey life together. I would have to be strong enough to endure alone.
I knew my capacity for love, the totality of my devotion, and I couldn’t trust anyone would reciprocate in kind. So I strangled my love. Fearing pain and betrayal, I betrayed my heart, ripping it into manageable pieces and muzzling it. I discarded passion and desire, deadening myself. Unfeeling, I hoped to survive life. I didn’t understand what living actually entailed. Fortunately, love is not so easily extinguished or controlled.
Even before we were together, your light moved me. One night, bitterness and despair engulfed me. As I considered whether a shirt could form an acceptable noose, you texted me. It was such a stupid, whimsical text about your day, but it upturned me. Darkness incinerated, I grinned, joy rushing in with a tiny voice repeating, “You are loved.”
Before this moment, I was fighting my feelings. I tried to convince myself I was obsessed over a foolish crush, tried to resist vulnerability and uncertainty. But after, I could not deny your importance to me. You were special. Those in a relationship should be able to ameliorate one another, rescue each other from their fallings. You so effortlessly saved me. So I had to try, had to make my feelings known.
Sometimes, it’s just not enough. I should have loved more wisely, more boldly, more graciously. I should have more determinedly fought for us. But this isn’t about me or us. It’s about you, and you asked me for yourself—as if you were ever mine to give. But oh, what a beautiful request.
Never did I imagine you would echo my own regulations against dating you: “Never date a girl who has recently ended a relationship. It’s a place of emotional fragility. She needs time to heal, time to rediscover herself.” How could I argue against both of us? Worse, a third tiny voice insisted, “She’s not for you.”
Grief plummeted within me. What was so hard to understand? You were perfect. Our interests aligned. Our conversations flowed easily. We were compatible. I had worked hard for this relationship and subdued my demons. Couldn’t you see how invested I was? Was this how my efforts would be repaid?
After emotions swelled, clarity shone through. More than wanting you, I wanted you to be you. So when you asked, I had to respect that. After all, did I not first love you when you weren’t mine? Love and you are both more beautiful when free. If I tried to bind you then, neither would be mine, be real.
Perhaps you wonder why I broke my rules for dating. Two reasons: a promise and deeming you were worth whatever consequence. I still believe that. I still believe you made the right decision. Even in the moment, I marveled at your maturity. It would have been easy to pretend, to linger, but the longer it went, greater would be our ruin.
I loved you as best I could, as best as I understood. If I hurt you in my ignorance or inability, I am so sorry. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy. Originally, I imagined myself in a more prominent position, but that no longer matters. Friend, acquaintance, stranger, partner all have value. I can support you in whatever capacity you desire.
I know of your bouts with doubt, your struggle to find the most proper, most kind course, your insecurity in your abilities and worth. Time will help. Listen for your own tiny voice. You have everything you need inside already, as well as a host of reliable, loving friends. You will find your way, your happiness. I believe in you.
Love changes for the better, even in the briefest encounters. A single action can redirect a life’s course. One person can be enough. You did, my dear. You were. All you. And I changed—because of, for, since—you. Heartfully, I offer thanks. Though I will never again court you, though you may never see these words, I still wanted to say them. To me, you will always be Radiant.