It happened over something simple. I cracked a stupid joke, the kind you only utter in front of people who make you feel safe, and he giggled, and it just washed over me: that comfortable, warm realization that you don’t remember what your life looked like when this person wasn’t in it.
In the early going with Kevin, there were moments when I’d see him smile and marvel that it was for me. Because we’d known each other professionally, there was a sense of, "I can’t believe that we’re suddenly here." This face that existed for me in a completely different context was suddenly next to mine on a pillow, and the luck of it all commingled with the disbelief and the initial disconnect: "Four months ago we were addressing network notes on a cut, and now I’m meeting his family?"
But it felt fantastic; it was what I’d wanted. And yet there were those moments of wondering what he’d think if he saw my really goofy side. Would I feel safe with him? Could I be stupid around him? Could I do that which gives me the most trouble: Truly be me, without thought or stress or self-censorship for fear of ridicule? Could I trust him to love me because of all those quirks and not in spite of them?
That cliched sentiment exists for a reason. I struggle with that sense of security with people, and I grapple in particular with letting go of the idea that a relationship is constantly on trial. Or that it’s comprised of a massive "pro" and "con" list in somebody’s head, onto which my every action is categorized and logged. "I sounded weird in the phone, I think. Did I sound weird? Did that annoy him?" "Does he think I’m a total loser now because I can’t make a decision about where to go to dinner tonight?" All those stupid little quirks or moments of weakness are the things on which I’ve felt judged before, and I found it hard to stop thinking as though my every move had some larger consequence — the power to shift the balance.
And then one day, all of a sudden, I turned around and realized I wasn’t doing that any more. Suddenly we were nine and a half months old, Kevin and I, and the self-consciousness didn’t exist. Along the way, without overthinking it or even focusing on it at all, I’d crossed through that blurry place where the mystery becomes familiar and the new becomes comfortable. He’d gone from a luxury to a mainstay. He hadn’t gotten sick of me and he hadn’t stopped loving me because of one moment of insecurity, and what’s more, he routinely treated — and still treats — me like he couldn’t have asked for anything better.
I miss him. He’s away again for work, back on the 8th or thereabouts, and the week he’s been gone has felt like three. He started out as a stroke of luck, and now he’s a blessing. A gift. I love this person so much, and the love he gives back to me isn’t conditional. It’s the first time I’ve felt that from somebody. When he looks at me, what he wants to see and what I am are one and the same. And it’s so hard for me to accept that, or to say it or write it without feeling arrogant, because there are times I can’t believe that I would ever get that from a person. Why me? What is it about me that I get to have somebody hold me in that kind of esteem?
Yet I also think that I deserve to be that lucky. Everyone does, and everyone is, and it’s just a matter of how long it takes. And I’m not putting this to virtual paper because I want to elevate myself in any way; I say it as a compliment to Kevin, because the fact that he can give this feeling to me and make it simple for me to believe in him so completely — well, that’s purely a testament to the person he is.
He makes me happy. Really happy. That’s the heart of it. And I’d so much rather say it out loud, and bask in what shines through his eyes when I’m staring into them, than bottle it up and fret about jinxes and refuse to give voice to my emotions because I’m scared of having to read this someday through crying eyes.
I hope it stays like this. But if it doesn’t, at least Kevin’s given me a benchmark, a standard. I can demand something better from guys. I can expect to be loved not for what I could be, but for what I am.