Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love is Confusing...Love is not what we plan it to be or even what we expect it might be. It is difficult and strange and often rather unexplainable. It is, however, wonderful and deeply affecting if we are patient and kind and let it come to us when it, not we, is ready. The love of my life was at one time just an acquaintance, later something more, then less and then more again and now is my reason for waking up each day. Our relationship has been a whirlwind of emotions, sometimes as enemies, mostly as friends. However, I will forever consider myself lucky to have been caught in the gusts of her life and I will be forever grateful she welcomed me in.
A dear friend of mine met a girl whom I became quite close with. My new friend, herself, had an old friend from her hometown who was soon to be moving to my city. Her name was Ashley and the move was to be quite an ordeal. She was living away from home for the very first time. She was 22; I was 24. I met Ashley one night at my house and we quickly became great friends. Just an hour into our first encounter we were already sharing jokes and telling stories like we were pals of many years gone by. She left that first night seemingly beginning to adjust to her new home and me, her newest best friend. It was only a few short days later that I had the opportunity to discover what a truly great friend Ashley really was. I had been sent on a rather late-night convenience store run by friends. Ashley offered to tag along. Our errand complete, we sat in her car idly chatting as the bright neon of the convenience store sign provided the only light by which to see each other. Idle chatter soon became heartfelt ramblings, strictly on my end. But Ashley sat listening, commenting sincerely, genuinely concerned with my story, until my words had become exhaustive and we both realized it had been nearly two hours since we left. Hurrying home, supplies still in hand, we arrived to a much smaller group than we had left, who despite their smallness in numbers still managed to appear quite disinterested in our return, but also rather upset at our lateness. I cared little, and I would come to feel that way increasingly often, about what everyone else may have felt or thought and more about the amazing feeling I had when Ashley and I were together. Whether it was grand meals out or to-go at home, a summer blockbuster or a rental at home on the couch, we were always together. Fun, it seemed, derived not from the events taking place around us but rather the company of one another. We cared little about what we did but everything about doing it by each other’s side.
As the summer months flew by, I felt time stand still. I saw my happiness in her bright blue eyes and her wide smile. I felt the connection so I was sure she had to be feeling it as well. Who wouldn’t want a handsome gentleman taking you to nice dinners, fixing clogged sinks or replacing very hard-to-reach light bulbs? Not Ashley; I was sure of it. I was falling for her, and fast. The more I let this become apparent the more she shied away from the idea. I wanted a romantic relationship and she was really enjoying being friends. Ashley had been through some really tough times before and wanted nothing to do with serious relationships, no matter how right they, and I, seemed for her. The expansive gap between our feelings began to cause definite problems with our friendship. I wanted more, she wanted exactly what we already had and it frustrated me to no end. We fought for the first time and spent quite a bit of time apart. She was protecting me but I either did not care or did not believe her. Finally, we decided to end it altogether. It was best for us both that we recognize the fun had been great but now over and that we go our separate ways. I reluctantly agreed. I would let her go; I would not call, or write, or drive by, or even whisper her name into the night wishing it would land gently in her ear. I was proud and upset, happy but confused. I was in love and I had to smash the feeling into a ball and throw it away.
I had to get away from everything so I took a camping trip alone up the coast. I needed fresh air and silence and most importantly, time. Four days alone and I was feeling awful but stronger. On my way home, to my surprise, my phone lit up with missed calls and text messages. Ashley missed me and wanted to see me and most importantly, she wanted to scold me. Apparently, it is not safe to take that sort of trip alone and she let me know it. I would never make that mistake again. I did not care though; all that mattered to me in that moment was that she did call, that she did miss me. I rushed to her apartment and embraced her. Things would go back to the difficult way they were before, I knew, but anything was better than being separated from her. Just friends, once again.
For my 25th birthday we went on a trip to Petaluma, CA to shop, relax and celebrate my special day. Ashley had put together an amazing gift basket for me, we ate sushi and the weather was perfect. And so were we. It felt just right, her and I together, the couple as perfect as the weather. How far from the truth this was proved to be a miniscule but constant nagging in my mind. Still just friends but also something more, it seemed. We returned a few days before my actual birthday, rested and deliriously happy. It took just one night for my doubts to rise violently to the surface again and a rarity, my blood to boil, happiness gone. The night of my birthday Ashley chose to go to another guy’s birthday party. Left alone to worry myself sick about our relationship, I cried. Not only was she at someone else’s party, it was a someone else I knew her friends had wanted to hook her up with. At that very moment it seemed as if Ashley wanted desperately to assert herself, to let me know we were not a couple and that she could date as she pleased. She even appeared to be trying harder than normal to prove it. Falling asleep late, into a pillow damp with my own tears I realized I really was losing hope. I’d try my best to hide my anger and hurt but I would have to start being more honest with myself. We loved each other but only one of us was in love and that is how it always would be.
Days passed into weeks and the birthday sadness faded much quicker than I had promised myself the hope would fade. September soon became October and November. The holiday season began in earnest and we were back to whatever it was that for us, by now, was considered normal. Thanksgiving was pleasant and Christmas was truly filled with joy; such a busy season can do wonders for suppressing the longings of an assuredly soon-to-be broken heart.
Ashley’s birthday is two days after Christmas and I planned to go all out. I bought beautiful flowers, baked a three-layer lavender cake from scratch and wrapped several gifts destined to be loved. After sushi dinner with friends (yes, I paid for both of us) we went out for drinks. Were I not the sober driver that evening I may not entirely believe what took place over the next several hours. Ashley was obviously having a great time but I noticed a distinct look in her eyes and even in the way she walked or sat down. I swore it seemed to be that everything but me was merely background noise to her. All her happiness was due to my presence. I tried to chalk it up to my usual delusions of grandeur amour. I figured I should have, maybe, verbal proof of her undying love rather than circumstantial fantasies I derived from my own mind. Again, I kept my heart open wide and my mouth firmly shut. The party ended late and I took everyone home. Helping Ashley to bed , I put orange juice and bottled water on her nightstand and went in for a goodnight hug. She squeezed me so tight and wouldn’t let go. See, something is going on I thought. The longest hug ever ended and I looked at her and began to say my goodbyes when she spoke out of turn, “I think I am falling in love with you.” Shut up. No way. I doubt either of us can remember but I think this was followed by a cycle of me asking “Really?!” and her nodding yes that easily repeated itself a dozen times. I obviously had to play it cool so I am sure I said something eternally lame like, “Cool. Well, see you tomorrow.”, but I am afraid the goofy grin tearing at its seams on my face gave me away. When I got home I sat on my balcony staring out at nothing, replaying her words again and again in my mind. Triumph! Sound the trumpets, I have won! We were both in love! Never mind the “think” and “falling” parts, I only heard “in love”.
The next several weeks were timid, shy, careful. Neither of us pushed the subject but the love flowed between us like waterfalls. Despite a very near-scare when I didn’t buy her flowers for Valentine’s day (this is stupid, do not ever, ever be this dumb) we officially became Matt and Ashley the couple on February 18th, 2008. I was fairytale happy and I knew it would last forever. Having realized her foolishness over avoiding Mr. Right, Ashley set out quite immediately to plan the wedding. True love can be patient but when it is ready, it does not waste its time. We married in May of 2009. It was beautiful and well attended and I don’t really remember much except that Ashley was there and she looked like no woman has ever looked or will ever look again. Ashley is perfect and finally, she is all mine.
I do not think my story is unique in that I believe love stories are all filled with struggle. Love is never easy, nor always kind. It is confusing and painful and even sickening. However, it is these emotions so rarely that even if you do notice them it will pass in seconds. Love really is lots of kisses and hugs, jokes and fun, compassion and honesty. It will make even your worst day seem not really so bad. It took courage and patience the likes the world has never seen for me to wait for love, but I guarantee I am the happiest man alive. Love is not simple but it is also never wrong. Trust me.