When I met her, I felt the feeling you see in movies but that you don’t believe truly exists. My heart jumped in my throat, my palms were sweating and every word I muttered sounded absolutely ridiculous. It wasn’t because she was stunning (though she was). It wasn’t that she was intelligent (though she most definitely was). It was her presence that made me want to take my heart out of chest and place it in the palm of her hand. And I did give her my heart – instantly, unthinkingly and lovingly.
It was our first few days of college. She was my suitemate, and she was all I could think about. I did everything I could to get close to her. After just a few conversations, there was no denying our connection. The largest barrier seemed to be her sexuality. She identified as being “straight” and had only ever been with men. I openly identified as being attracted to a person’s heart: I would feel an emotional connection first, then, on occasion, the physical attraction would follow.
In the past, I had boyfriends, dated male athletes and had numerous hook-ups with gorgeous men who meant nothing to me. Then, one night after a party in high school, I made out with one of my best girl friends. In that hook-up, I felt my heart trying to break out of my ribs. Knowing how much we cared and loved each other created a sort of electricity that rushed through every inch of me. After that exhilarating night, I understood how my heart worked. I proceeded to pursue people who I emotionally connected with, both men and women, and repeatedly found myself having meaningful experiences. But none of those connections turned into real relationships before college.
Although my suitemate believed she was “straight,” there can be exceptions to any label. You love who you love, and I loved her. And with a little bit of alcohol, we let our guards down and gave into our feelings.
Within the next few days and in the weeks after, our hearts flooded open and our pasts unfolded. I had never told anyone about my history of sexual abuse, among other traumas, in such detail before I told her. She taught me how to look her in the eyes, let myself crumble and feel understood for the first time in my life. It was incredible. She opened up to me, too. While she unraveled the darkest parts of herself, I found her more and more beautiful. It wasn’t because I’m attracted to people who are broken, but rather because I saw how large her heart was when she talked about the people she loved and the experiences that made her who she was. I promised in that moment that I would always be there for her.
For weeks, I couldn’t stop smiling. No matter what went wrong, I knew I would get to see her at the end of the day and we would sleep soundly in the same bed. I could leave her notes about how special she was in her notebook, hear about her day, buy her champagne or Bloody Mary mix (even though I found it seriously disgusting), make her CDs… I’d do anything I could to make her happy.
But I wasn’t enough. I am not a man. I am not someone who a girl can take home to her conservative family, physically have kids with and marry in some states. I’ve never hated my gender so much than in the time I was with her. She was ashamed of me. The only people who knew about us were our roommates and my friends who I drunkenly told about our relationship.
There was a boy who could give her what I couldn’t. He cared about her, he was always around and her friends wanted her to be with him. She cheated on me with him and they started dating in what seemed like seconds. Her eyes turned cold. I watched them hold hands and kiss, and sometimes, when she would hook up with him, she sexiled her roommates into my room. I moved from my suite to a single across campus.
I was devastated. I didn’t understand how she could care about me so deeply and then pretend we never were anything. Worse, I had opened all these gates to my past that I had kept closed for years, and she was the only one who I felt I could talk to. I went crazy. I texted her all the time, wrote letters and sent presents. I was pathetic and in an unbearable amount of pain. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I developed a benign tumor the size of a tennis ball from stress that I had to get removed. She did text me sometimes to tell me how much she cared about me and missed me… but she was never brave enough to do anything about it. Either that, or she never meant it.
It’s been about three years since that fall semester, and maybe a year since her last text when I felt she cared about me. Now, she passes me on campus while looking the other way. It’s funny; she’s probably one of the only people in the universe to truly know my heart, yet she won’t acknowledge me. I wonder when and if that will ever not feel like a knife in my chest. However, I don’t claim to know her anymore either. The girl who walks past me isn’t the one I knew.
I don’t regret my relationship with her. I loved this girl with all my heart. Even after the heartache, the depression and my episodes of insanity, I still believe love is infinitely beautiful. It takes vulnerability to let someone in the dark corners of your heart. Yet it’s letting yourself feel that gives meaning to life. It is what enriches your soul, and it is what will make you crazy in the worst and greatest of ways. Of course, the pain when it doesn’t work out isn’t a walk in the park, but you’ll heal and you’ll thrive in love again.
Since her, I’ve opened up more than I ever believed I was capable of. Obviously, getting here was a journey of introspection that took months; years even. But now, I am in love with the world, I am closer with my friends and family and I carry an appreciation for who I am. Maybe it took heartbreak for me to let people in, face my past and embrace the pieces I hid in the dark. Or maybe that’s just me trying to spin a traumatic experience into a positive one. All I know is that I believe in love. I am not afraid to get shattered. It’s in that uncontrollable free fall that my heart feels most alive.
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