I’ve loved two boys in my thirty years. I was twenty-two the first time I fell. It was young love–the kind of love you feel when you still don’t really know what love is. And though sometimes I wish I didn’t have to “claim” it, I must, because even though it didn’t have a lot of depth–it was love. And I think perhaps that had it been allowed to progress, it just might have become more. But it didn’t. And while “loosing” it shattered my heart, I see how I was led from it, to something better. Something more. Something that expanded my capacity to be.
It was only a few months later, after that midnight heartbreak, that I sat in Church one Sunday disillusioned and distrustful. I still didn’t understand how he could say one thing and then take it back a few weeks later. I didn’t understand how quickly his head could be turned. But mostly, I didn’t understand how I had been so naive.
That’s when he stood up. He, was tall, dark and handsome with a tweed jacket, or maybe it was corduroy. I can’t remember. Either way it had elbow patches. He announced where the Sunday School classes would be held and which one he would be teaching and I immediately knew which one I’d be attending. (How quickly a girl’s mood can change.)
For the next hour, I sat amazed–but not by the blue of his eyes (although I obviously noticed. How could I not?). My mind was reeling with the depth, and wisdom, and insight that spilled out of him. “It is a daily battle to maintain pure motives,” he said as he closed his remarks, and I walked away wondering about my own motives, evaluating and weighing their level of purity. Simply put: I was impressed and I wanted to know him. I was still wary, but I took my want to the Lord. “Father,” I said, “I want to be friends with him.” And Father answered.
Over the next three years, we became friends. We carpooled to work, ate dinner together, hung out with other mutual friends, and talked for hours. And hours. And hours. Oh did we talk. In the car after work, on a moonlit peak overlooking the city, in a mountain meadow surrounded by aspens, at my kitchen table, we’d talk of God, of relationships, of spirituality, of love. So often it came back to love.
He was a philosopher and a musician and I was wide-eyed with want, hungry for his thoughts. A typical conversation began, “What are you learning right now?” or “Tell me what you’ve been thinking about?” And then we’d go back and forth, back and forth. Floating ideas. Questioning validity. Engaged in each word with mutual respect. I told him my secrets and of my heartache. He shared his plans and the paradoxes of his life.
Later, I’d often find myself in the library, sitting Indian-style on the floor in between the stacks for hours at at time, fingering books, smelling their pages, determined to read more, learn more, be more, do more–because of him. I bought Kierkegaard and Plato, Diana Krall and Alison Krauss. I began making lists–of who I wanted to be and what I could accomplish. I could feel the broken parts of my heart piecing themselves back together.
Yes, we became friends. Dear friends. Always friends. And somewhere along the way, I began to love him. I find that I never say “I fell in love with him,” because … it wasn’t reckless like that first time. It was careful, and simple, and sincere. It was honest. And it changed me.
I asked him once why he never asked me out. He said he didn’t know–that he’d thought of it, but didn’t know. And we never spoke of it again. He eventually married another girl. A lovely soul. A girl who, had I known her sooner, I think I would have been friends with. She’s perfect for him and fits in ways I never did.
But I loved him none-the-less.
I recently found a book he gave me on my twenty-fourth birthday and a few notes he’d left on my car throughout those last years of college, and as I looked at the familiar handwriting, I saw pieces of my history–pieces of me–flash in my memory. I felt that oddly-familiar feeling of adoration. I could remember how the smile felt on my lips when I saw him. I could remember the tingles in my toes when he played his guitar. I could remember the way my heart literally felt like it was doubling in size when he was near. I could remember how anything seemed possible to me when he was teaching. And while I no longer love him like that, I could remember what it felt like when I did.
I’d forgotten that that feeling is possible. That it exists and that I’ve felt it before.
Tonight, I learned his family’s loving world was rocked with a fierce tragedy. And as my knees bend, and my prayers rise, and my tears fall for him, I find that that piece of my heart–the one that I think will always belong to him–once again, has doubled. And though the feelings are different, he is still teaching me how to love.