It’s the middle of the week, and I’m calm. My to-do list sits mostly empty, as I’m expecting family for the weekend. There won’t be enough beds to sleep in, but sugar consumption and late night conversations will keep us awake in any case. Your name will come up, as it does in most conversations that happen past midnight
Recently, in one of these late night conversations, my mom asked me a question. Assuming she wanted me to fall for someone of the same faith and mind, the same strength and kind, it was unexpected. She asked me if a difference in ideas and opinions, beliefs and ways of living, really mattered in love at all, if the core desire stands: to know and be known. Her question was in reflection to someone else, but I briefly thought of you. Briefly, because I knew that soon I would see you for the first time in a while, and I was unsure if you’d actually want to see me. The anxious anticipation led me to reflect on our beginnings, choosing butterflies over an empty pit of a stomach.
You remember that first day, our meeting. It was a whirlwind. I thought I knew you: what you stood for and what we would talk about. Your admission to being a person of faith deeply connected the space between us. Although at first I didn’t believe you. I caused a scene. I reacted. I was right about one thing, though: that I would fall for you. The first time you made me laugh, I practically reached through my ribs and handed over my heart, captured. Most days you were all I could think about. You were not prize: I never hoped to win you. Instead you were a dream, a soft space to land, and a trail of adventures.
Do you remember that group hike, when you nearly saved my life? At the top, the wind took over and the slippery final steps were just too much. But you caught me.
Do you remember the surprise birthday party our friends threw? Our lips so close, blowing out candles and reading sweet wishes. Dancing the night away. Not to mention the fire whiskey shot.
And the late nights? Glowing dawn streets play in my mind like an old, clicking film projector. You and me, waiting to catch the bus. I didn’t even need a kiss, I only hoped you’d hold my hand. The timing made no difference, either the first evenings we spent together, cold and bundled up, or the following July, as sweat poured from our palms in the burning heat. I just wanted to know you were really there.
You listened. We caught eyes. Hugged deeply. It mattered to you, knowing I was safe.
When you started dating her, without even telling me, you must have known that you would break my heart. In the end, I think I did know you on that first day. My instincts about your faith were everything.
I knew to see you years later would feel satisfying, embracing after such a long time apart. Surprisingly, your eyes were filled with warmth, inquiry, and observation. Your hello was searching for my reaction, expecting it just as the first time we’d met, infatuated. Although, my heart flittered over the attention, I finally understood. You needed noise and affirmation and movement for worth. I had only ever needed that glance of your eye. And now that I had your attention, I no longer wanted it.
To be honest, I will never send this letter to you. To be honest, we won’t ever be together. To be honest, I still love you, though you no longer hold my heart. It is not yours to hold.
My conversation is always yours, should you bother to come around. And if our bond seems to weaken, or our words pile up awkwardly, I won’t mind. I’ll buy you another cup of coffee. Or take you to a bookshop and show you my favorite volumes, while you drift over to the philosophy section. You could change the subject and mention a time you laughed the hardest. Or we could simply be silent. It was always in our quietness that we connected the most, attached by shredding threads.
Artist and linguist, Ashleigh Hess loves to craft connections between words and visuals. She is inspired by color, conversations, and travel.