In the days that passed, there was silence.
Silence per her request. I will not be reached on Saturday. Let’s just talk on Monday. And we course through life as in normal conversation, giftwrapping our worries and cares for each other on notices of our routes to work, meals throughout the workday, and in coming home.
We speak and talk and joke and laugh and send photos of one another: she, on her desk with a face mask on, the threat of the current virus choking the current state of affairs with fear. I, with a photo of myself on my desk, staring deep into the camera lens as if they were her brown eyes staring back at me.
We carry on as usual. We meet after work and share a meal before going home. Some days I pick her up and we go through most of her route home, leaving her with but one city block to serve as time for herself. My commute was a 60- to 90-minute car ride, and did not let it faze me one bit. At some point I recall being there for her five days a week; heading out of the office at exactly 5:00 to be with her by 5:45, to part ways by 7:30 or 8:00, and then do it all again the next day through all the emotions I have been feeling.
Love was stronger, I thought to myself. Love is the higher law. I’m going to give this all I got for as long as I can, but I can not rest easy in the fact that I was walking towards the path of surrendering her to another person.
It was the kind of ending I was not supposed to handle, but I’d done all my efforts and expected for the worst, all in the exact same sentence.
The Friday night was a little eventful, coming home and hosting my decades-old friends at the rooftop in the suburbs. There, somewhere between the cheese pizza, salmon sashimi, and Ruffles, I can at least pretend everything is fine. That in the fleeting, temporary escape of the threat of being left behind, at the least I can eat my feelings away. (Temporarily.)
It was in the sleep that I felt something shift. The past week had driven me to exhaustion, but my mind was going to places I knew my body could not. My mind said endure when my body asked for a break. In a lumpy heap at the top of my bed, I reach for my phone to leave her a message.
I want to see you, but your sleep is more important right now. I send, roll over facing the wall, and go to sleep.
She calls at past 3:00AM to assure me that she wants to see me too. That even in the midst of what was going on between us, she had a choice. The choice was me.
I watch her sleep until my mind is tired enough to let me rest. Twenty minutes later, all is right in the world, and no one could tell me any different.
The weekend came and went, and it was over 40 hours of loud silence. It was maddening to think of her carrying on with her life as per usual, while I paused my life behind a screen, waiting for her to come back. The weekend came and went, but it was as if I was not able to rest. Who can rest easy knowing they’re losing something that mattered to them so much?
Then again, I barely valued people before her.
The new week came, and something shifted. I’d learned to pause, to breathe, to distance myself if that was what it meant to give us both some peace of mind. It worked, temporarily.
Because after the ups and downs and the forks on the road, we still wanted to show up for each other. Love only ever works when the choice is ‘each other.’ Love has the power to work when it’s two people putting in the effort, time, patience, and endurance to look past the flaws and mistakes and errors, if it meant choosing the other person and placing them as a priority above anything else. Love only ever works when you pick them up after work one day, and the next day they surprise you by showing up at your office building right after 5:00. Love only ever works when you put the work in. And even then, the chances of making a relationship work goes up by a small percentage, because love only ever works if you put in the effort every day, to show up and show them you love them every day, to leave sweet messages and words to reassure them of their worries every day; only then will Love ever work.
In my book, Love works because we talked. We talked through the good times and the bad, listened to the happy and sad, the mundane and the extraordinary, we talked about everything. Love works because we do, day in and day out thinking and caring for each other, wondering how else one can be of service to the other. Love works because it’s a feeling, and the feeling was to choose her, in as much as she chooses me. Love works because we do; love is there when she opens doors for me, love is there when I don’t let her carry my things, love is there when I’m short on cash and she feeds me dinner, love is there when all she asked was for me to support her. Love works because I cheer, not only for her dreams but also for ours. Love works because through all that has been, my choice is to always choose her, not for any other reason but I look at her, she looks like home, and her heart is the place where I want to be. Maybe for her Love works because I do plenty of good to her, perhaps it was Love that gave her courage and changed her, Love was there when the times were trying and the times were hard, but not for a single moment did I ever love her less.
Love takes a lot of work to make it work, and we are willing to put in the time.
I pick her up–the most basic of surprises when we both have long working days–at her building, as one does. I secretly tell her friends I’m waiting for her at the ground floor, and it takes her an additional 45 minutes to pack up and clock out.
We spend half an hour outside, looking for my ride home.
There, in the fading daylight, as night slowly creeps in, with the wind shifting to lower, colder temperatures, she surprises me with one word I never expected to hear:
That it was contentment that gave us a shot. There is no perfect partner. We all come with flaws. Perhaps I should stop looking at what’s missing, and appreciate what is there. Perhaps I should be content with what we have.
She made love, though abstract, relatively simple to understand. Her love was light, her passion adventurous, and my love for her was loyal, true and constant. We have our ups and downs, but the promise is to always see it through with each other, even when the options given were hard. Her love was light, and her love is always assured. On the days I felt I love, I felt that it was truly love: that there was no one else, and no worry to remotely consider, but she made the choice and the choice was me.
And in the moment when her hands touched my face, a new, foreign feeling–this is enough.
Love is enough.