I have been boy crazy since I knew what a boy was.
I chased them around classrooms. I attempted unwanted kisses. I asked them to go with me. I told them I liked them. Sometimes boys liked me back. But it seemed most didn't.
In high school and college, all my close friends had boyfriends that were mutually in love with them. Sophomore year, my siblings both got married to their significant others. It seemed everyone had someone except me.
I became obsessed with love and with the idea that it was all about timing -- being able to meet the right person at the right moment in space, in life at the moment you're both there and ready was an impossibility.
I spent too much time overthinking where I was at the moment and tiny decisions I was making. Like, what if I got on the first car on the T and the guy I'm supposed to be with is on the 3rd car.
I also spent too much time thinking no one would ever fall in love with me. Not because I didn't deserve love, but maybe that was just my lot in life: To be alone and to never know what it felt like to be loved back.
Right after college graduation, I met him. The one. Everything was mutual. Everything was perfectly timed. (The story of how we met is epic and our fates were sealed in the 1930s. Literally, a story for another time.)
I knew when I met him that eventually we'd fall in love. I also knew that I was not going to say it first. I deserved, after years of chasing, to be chased, and for me to hear it first. He needed to take the risk. But I didn't want saying "I love you" to be risky for him. I wanted him to feel safe in that if he said it first that he'd know I'd say it back.
So I began saying to him everything that meant "I love you" except I love you itself. Things like: You're important to me. I love being with you. I'd be happy staring at a blank wall, as long as I was with you.
We'd fall asleep holding hands.
One morning, we woke up and my head was on his chest. I could feel and hear his heart beating like a metronome gone awry. So I asked, "Why is your heart beating so fast?"
"I love you," he said.