He used to stare at you while you drove, but you pretended not to notice. You used to imagine how he saw you, the skyline blurring around your profile and you wondered if he thought you were beautiful. One night, while using his phone to look up the lyrics to some 90’s song, you secretly went through pictures he’d taken. There was one of you laughing into a beer, one of you making stupid faces at your dog, one of you singing in the car to a song he probably hated, one of you teaching your daughter to swim.
You didn’t need to wonder anymore.
The night he said he loved you, it came out like rain sliding down glass—slow, stuttered, but beautiful to watch.
"This isn’t the right time for this," he said. "But I-I-I love you and I have for a long time and I think you’re amazing and-and-and I know you can’t be with me right now, but-but-but maybe one day we can."
And then he was gone and like every story—you went back to a love that made you feel like they were shoving rocks into your heart.
You felt weighed down by things, by love and the obligation of it and you found yourself sinking fast, and worst of all—you thought you deserved it. Then one day, that love was over, and you rose to the surface of your life, blind and scared but relieved.
You spread every rock you’d once swallowed out on the beach of your grief and noticed something.
You realized all those rocks you’d been living with in your heart were memories of him—things you thought you had to swallow down. A loss you thought you had to live with because you grew up thinking love had to be hard and wrong and difficult—a dark empty room you have to spend years making into a home.
So, you dialed his number, your breath caught in your throat, and he picked up at 5 AM after one ring.
”I’ve missed you.” he said, before you could say anything else.
He didn’t ask where you had been or who you had been with or why you’d been gone so long. He asked how you were and you told him and he cried and he got in his car and showed up at your doorstep at 5:34 AM, and held you until you fell asleep.
When you woke up he was still there, his arms wrapped around you and his mouth pressed against the back of your neck. It was in that moment you realized that maybe love doesn’t mean navigating a dark room without any help and it doesn’t mean you have to swallow your words, or emotions, or rocks to make it worth it.
You realized that maybe love can be easy—as easy as taking a deep breath in and breathing it out into someone else’s heart.