"In your life I see everything that lives," Pablo Neruda.
At seventeen, when the world was still new, and just ten months shy of me getting the chance to take it on, I fell in love. He wasn't someone I had known. We were in school together, but our paths hadn't crossed. I asked about him through a friend. We were introduced, and that was it. I was swept up and away, just like any of you who have ever been in love.
Every love is unique. There's platonic love, can't-keep-my-hands-off-you love, bad-timing love, for-the-time-being love, you-are-the-sun-moon-and starry eyed love, jealous love, innocent love, I-can't-quit-you love. Donald and I were starry-eyed. He sees himself imperfectly, but not me. In high school he was big brother to all the girls. He took the time to listen until they were done, until they felt better. He had a hug waiting without fail. You knew he would be there, and while he was by your side you were filled up in his warmth. This was his capacity for others. For me, the one by his side, it was more intense. Quite simply it was the best, he was, our stolen moments were.
When it was time to go to college, life took its natural course. Eventually, we pried ourselves apart. By junior year, we moved on.
Over the years, there have been others, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes heartbreakingly. I've had the good fortune of reconnecting with Donald twice, once at the ten-year high school reunion, and again now that another ten years have passed. Each time I am overtaken with emotion and I wonder how it's possible to still feel so much. Beyond that first gift of being able to love before your trust gets crumpled in someone's hand, beyond sitting in the newness and anticipation of what life has waiting for you, what was this person and his love about?
I said that I don’t see his imperfections, but I do. I know they’re there. Donald battled the world, not me. He battled himself, I think, because he wasn’t able to rest until he lived up to his own expectations. But he didn’t battle me. He let me take off his bandages in the quiet of his room; he let me care for him; he let me in.
We carried each other; nothing was broken; there were no cracks. We kept each other whole. He wanted goodness in the world and for those around him, and in his life I saw everything that lived (Neruda).
A love like ours was no small miracle. I keep it with me, to the stars and back.
Mr. Starling, me, Donald