j + r, these words are for you. i carry both of you in my heart.
“I have feelings for her,” he said. “They’re real.”
The smoke from the bonfire hissed and tangled with my hair as I watched him wring his hands in circular motion, as if his mama had just told him to wash them good. Soap. Water. No skimping. Germs, they be a killer.
The flames cackled. We sat face to face. The pockets of people around us all cloaked in heavy conversation. Laughter. Their voices buzzed and wheeling from the concoctions of vodka & rum & fruity summer cocktails.
“So what do I do?”
It occurs to me that this feeling doesn’t overwhelm him so often. That it is not every day when he lets the good girl in to take up cushion space in his heart. He’s nervous for the first time in a very long time. His steps have become more careful. His heart takes to guarding. His speech turns to stumbling. Ah, the seeds of someone who might just be madly in love by morning if only they’d let themselves go.
“You tell her,” I say back.
You tell her.
Not in a text. Not even on the phone. You tell her when, and only when, you can see the green in her pupils. The birthmark on her neck. You tell her when your palms are sweaty and your words don’t feel like they hold an ounce of eloquence. You tell her, even when the whole thing could collapse at any moment, on any one of your syllables. She might reject you. She might turn away. But you need to say it all the same.
You don’t go back.
To being just friends. To holding it inside. A smart girl will know that a friendship doesn’t work when one of the two is willing to give up worlds & go extra miles & endure sleepless nights for the other. That’s not friendship. That’s blaring, stupid love and it is completely & utterly worth it when two walk towards it with open hands. So even if she turns you down, you don’t sink back into “friendship.” You know those feelings ain’t packing bags. Ain’t hitchhiking to Nebraska. You tell her and risk the whole of it all. & if it isn’t her, some good girl is gonna love you better. But if it isn’t her you cannot sink back into being “just friends.”
You hold her.
Her hand. The small of her back when Michael Buble is on and she’s dancing on the toes of your dress shoes in the middle of the living room. You get all wrapped in the scent of her hair. You hold that same hair back on those rare but wild nights when there’s too much tequila and banter by the bar side. You hold her. All the parts of her. The secrets she has saved for you. The dreams. The fears. The Gold & the Glue to a story that becomes glittered with Us & We. Never again just you & her.
You challenge her.
Everyday. With every step. You don’t supply the easy ways out. You guide her the best you can. But you understand, you understand well, that you cannot move her nor can you make her. You see your limits. You push her to find her own.
When dishes break. When snot is on the sofa. When the honeymoon period ends. The finances grow frail. When Life gets unruly, as she always often does, you suck in, breathe deep, and you work it out. You man up & work it out.
You believe in her.
You make up your mind right here and right now to be her biggest fan. Her sidekick. Her cheerleader. You get on your strong snow boots and you help her shovel out the doubt like the icy kind of snow that always made havoc for the driveway. And when she decides to curl up & collapse on the floor, you head back to square one. You hold her. But eventually you make her get up & walk. You know just how strong she is.
You let her go.
If she needs it. If it is necessary. Imperfect, yes, but sometimes necessary. You let her go. If her mind is wandering & her shoes don’t fit. And she needs to head away from home & the lights she has always known. You support her in that. You recognize, straight from the formations of a Once Upon a Time that life isn’t perfect & people don’t always stay. But if she loves you, if her heart is sweet for you, then she will come back. She will find her way back to you.
That what you feel is very good. That we– the fleshy messes that we are– were made for these kinds of feelings. The Overwhelming. The Anxiety. The Goodness of Falling in Love. In Finding a Someone Who Soon Becomes Your Only One. You let the feelings own you for a little while, break you down to dust for a girl who weakens your knees in the very best way. You recognize, not everyone has this but most people want this. They might be lying if they tell you different. You recognize that it is good, very good. The Best Stuff in Life.
You be good to her.
That’s it. That’s all. If ever you need a starting point, a middle grounds, a point of punctuation, it. is. this: You be good to her. Always & always.