Missed Opportunities

The first time I thought I might love you, it was August. We’d driven two hours to the racetrack, only to see a “Closed due to rain” sign on the gate. I laughed when you replaced it with a sign blaming the closure on the drivers’ diarrhea. On the way home, you held my hand and sang “I’m On Fire” along with Springsteen. You dozed off, but you wouldn’t let go of my hand. Every time I looked over at you, I couldn’t help thinking that you were absolutely, breathtakingly perfect. But it was too soon, so I swallowed my words and kept my eyes on the road.

A few days later, whilst laying on my bed, you told me about growing up without a mom, how your step-mom was never very nice to you, how your relationship with your dad is good, “good but complicated.” You seemed almost ashamed of your vulnerability. Instead of meeting my eyes, you buried your face in the curve of my neck. I could feel the pain in your words, and all I wanted was to hold you, to make it okay, to take your heart in my hands and fill it up with so much love that you wouldn’t even notice its scars. I listened and stroked your hair; I told you I was sorry and that I would always be there to listen. You were so vulnerable that the words caught in my throat, so I kissed you and tried not to cry.

Weeks passed. One night, cuddled up in bed, I asked if you were sleepy. You told me you were, but asked what was on my mind. With a single deep breath for courage, I poured out all the hurt and pain and trauma from years past. I saw the sadness in your eyes – not because you didn’t want to know, but because it hurt you to know what I had been through. I buried my face in your chest and sobbed, and you didn’t flinch; You hugged me closer and told me you were proud of me for speaking up. I felt the words bubbling up, but it was late and I was scared, so I thanked you and went to sleep.

The moments started coming quicker: The night you told me that I am the only girl you have trusted not to cheat. The day at the park when you referred to us as a family. Thanksgiving Day, when my mother picked a fight and you snuck into the bathroom to tell me it would be okay. The day you found your ex’s belongings in a long-forgotten storage closet and happily threw every last one of them in the trash. The first time you scored a goal and flashed a brilliant smile up at me in the stands. The reasons started to become smaller: Your smile. The way your eyes light up at any mention of Star Wars. How you grill every waiter at every restaurant about what your vegan girlfriend can eat. The gigantic piles of kindling you cut me with no complaint. The way you – a man who doesn’t do PDA – always seem to end up with your arm around me as we walk. How you turn up the heat for me, even though you’re always too warm. The little texts you send to say you miss me when you’re gaming with the boys. Just every little thing you do and say and are. But the moment was never right, so I kept my mouth shut.

The moment I knew unequivocally that I love you was almost laughably mundane. It was a Saturday afternoon, and you were napping . I lay next to you, lost in a book, when I briefly glanced over. I can’t even explain why, but you took my breath away so completely. It was like I was seeing you for the first time, whilst feeling like I’d known you all my life. I wanted to wake you with a kiss, snuggle into the little cocoon your arms always seem to make, and whisper in your ear that I love you beyond measure. But I’m still afraid that you don’t love me back, so I turned the page and decided I’ll wait.

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