I barely remember it all now, just details that leap out to me when I think of him sometimes. You know, important things that you think are small when you're in the It, but in hindsight turn out to be the Everything.
I remember the night I met him. It was early April 2004. I was 18. He was 22. He walked in with his friend who was visiting my room mate. I was annoyed and didn't want company. Then we locked eyes. He was the physical manifestation of the boy of my dreams. He hopped up on my bed like he'd known me my whole life and told me his name in the cocky, nonchalant way the handsome ones tend to do. I blushed and smiled, but my eyes never left his. He was mine and we knew it. Everyone in the room saw the change that came over us.
We were going to Be.
From that day forward we were inseparable in Spirit and physical proximity.
The feeling was pure. It was cutting. It made me realize I was truly alive. He was beautiful and kind and tall and intelligent and hailed from New York. He spoke the same language as me. We didn't need words. It was understood.
We would spend hours marveling at the contrasts in our skins: mine was a richly dark mahogany next to his olive shot through with coppers and golds. He'd raptly watch me play violin in his t-shirts on lazy Saturday mornings turned into afternoons. He held my hand tightly everywhere we went, even while he was driving. He thought I was the most lovely girl he'd ever known and told anyone that who would listen.
He was the only man who has ever stood up and battled for me against those whom I felt defenseless. He was the first man to send me flowers - pink roses often and just because. He was tone deaf and had no rhythm but loved music I think sometimes even more than me. He wrote me letters and poetry and talked me to sleep every night that first summer when I was away from him.
He taught me to love non-fiction books and chess and documentaries and the power of sitting with someone in Silence. He spoiled me. He grounded me. He was one of the best friends I'll ever have. He taught me what love is. He taught me how to love myself. He saved my life.
He was a romantic. He was strong. He was humble. He was quiet. He was a good Cancer. He loved me more than anyone he had ever known before in this life. He made sure everyone knew that, especially me.
Love became a tangible entity and wafted off of our skin like perfume. It was Spring when we met, and those warm months turned into hot months then cold then warm again. With him I took my first steps into womanhood. It seemed that the sun rose every morning just for us. Everyday was an adventure. Everything seemed be covered in sunshine and rose petals. He was my drug. I finally understood why civilizations rise and fall all in the name of that emotion.
Women stared at him when we were together, but he always stared at me. He imprinted into every groove and curve of my body. He taught me that physical love and emotional love and spiritual love combine to make pleasure Infinitely.
His dad was German and his mom was Haitian. Quite the interesting combination. He had the temper of the half-island country and the predisposition for cruelty of the white man. That didn't come out until the end when we were trying our best to break each other's hearts.
My friends liked him for me until when a couple years in they began to notice my weight fluctuating based on the state of my relationship-thin for bad, chubby for happy. I was an average size to skinny the last year of our relationship. To this day, I only wear stretch jeans, a habit I picked up during that year.
We were too young to make the life we wanted together become a reality. He had no father and I had no kin. We were both hurting and wanted so badly to heal the other. We kept trying to fill those voids. We failed, but we were too young to realize that is not the job of another human being-filling another's Empty.
Failure turned into resentment. Resentment turned into cruelty. We loved each other and knew each other very well, so when we began The Hurting we became monsters. We broke each other's hearts. I didn't get out of bed for 3 days after the last time I saw his face because I knew I would never see him again. I Changed. I became hard and stopped playing my violin and writing and smiling. I stopped going to class. My professors were kind and passed me anyway because even they understood. I ran away and joined the Navy two days after graduation. It took me almost a decade of breaking my heart and the hearts of others to stop running. I've finally forgiven both of us.
One of the best days we ever had was spent drunk and in love gallivanting around New York City. He had gotten down on his knee and given me a ring not long before that day. I remember its proud flaunting in the Harlem sun.
In Brooklyn we passed a woman struggling to make it down subway stairs that we were walking up. She had her hands full with two toddlers and a baby in a stroller. He told me - Hold on K; picked up the stroller with one hand and the smallest toddler with the other. He flashed a gilded smile at all of us that my brain committed to long-term memory. Even the baby girl was dazzled. I watched him run down the stairs like only the young and free dare to. He just had a heart like that.
At the bottom of the stairs the woman gave him a hug and yelled back up to me -
You got a good one girl, don't let him go. I yelled back - I never will.
I did. I have.
He now has a wife and a daughter of his own. I learned they were married seven years ago when a picture from a mutual friend passed across my screen. You think you know pain-you do not. Not until you've seen the person you've loved the most on this earth married to the woman you knew as his classmate only 2 years before. I was angry at and mistrustful of men and the world for a long time after that. But, alas, Time does heal. So does Love of Self. And Writing. And Music. And Hope.
I knew I had released the ghost last week when I reflected on how much his little girl looks like him. How happy his wife looks. How proud I was of him. I smiled at those thoughts and breathed the last of him out of my lungs. Al fin.
I remember the intensity of the Spring sun the last day I ever saw him; it was making his skin shine like new gold. We were holding hands but the space between us was finally impossible to span. The tears that welled up in both of us betrayed the last lies we ever told each other: See you later, we said. My last words with him were exchanged in the place where I first realized I was in love with him. It was by a lake they call Salem. Fitting how that word means peace.
The sun burned brightly in the sky on both of those days, lapping, waving, rippling, and sparkling the water like water only does when it's warmed. I'll always remember the sparkling. Everything about our relationship was a poem, especially our goodbye.
To this day, I still smile deeply inward at the sight and smell and feel of pink roses...