Most of our serious conversations have happened in little white boxes. When in Rome: We met through mutual friends on Facebook. Initial flirtation comes easily with electronics as buffers, and the rest just feels natural. We pass the time between long phone calls and in-person rendezvous with texts, direct messages, chats. It's a dangerous way to get to know someone. I know this. Secrets tumble forth quickly, sometimes too quickly. I'm open and honest — to a fault, some might say — and am ashamed of few things, but I'm scarred.
"Scars mean you lived," he tells me.
My scars come from sharing everything and having the supposed "worst" of it thrown in my face. From vulnerability I thought I could harness but that spiraled out of control and made me weak. The scars are deep, deeper than I give them credit for, but I keep them hidden for the most part. (And yet, here I am.)
Some scars aren't scars yet at all; they're still forming, waiting to smooth over, fade from searing red to blush pink and back to my normal skin color, barely noticeable to anyone but myself. They're wounds with scabs that beg to be tugged at. Wounds that break open, gush with tears instead of blood, at the slightest wrong move.
I launched myself back into dating because I was ready. Am ready. But, as always, the diamond in the rough sparkles in the distance and makes everything else fade into the background. Even when you're not ready for that.
And as we get to know each other, I discover countless similarities between him and the last. The last, which I thought might be my last.
Our flirtations, dripping with wit, innuendo, snark. His fierce independence. The thrilling contrast between his gruff exterior and gooey interior. The grey fleece robe in his bathroom. His unwavering confidence in me. Their names even rhyme, for God's sake.
He says he'll want to know me even if I don't fall in love with him. Which should be comforting. Take the pressure off. He says all sorts of things I want to believe, but he — the other he — said them too, once. Now there's so much rage and hurt and crushing sadness on both our parts that I can't tell which end was ever up when we were together. The Knight in Shining Camry, stripped of that ardent armor, now says things such nobility would be ashamed of.
Not a year ago, it was two against the world. Now it's him against me. Is this what passes for love? Is this what love does to us?
It's easy to build a wall, let every he be he. Assume the mistakes, the pain, will just repeat themselves. But that's never been me. So I breathe deeply, fresh fall air through a window in North Center, and trust — with some trepidation. Conditions for my own heart: It's okay to pull back.
I trust, I believe him, because scattered among the many similarities are signs of how unlike everyone he is. He approaches his whole existence with grace. His past is checkered, a tight gingham or an intricate houndstooth, but it's gauge to rise above, not a crutch.
He looks at the world around him with a smirk and a laugh. He's gregarious and warm, and generous to a point that's hard for me to fathom. He cherishes his family and would die for his friends. His Angry White Guy is tongue in cheek, heart on sleeve.
He lacks pretension, except when he talks about his art. "His art." He's an artist. And even that pretension is a little charming.
He is simply him. And I want to know him for that. He deserves that.
"What do you want?" he asks me.
I want to go to the country, pick pumpkins and drink apple cider. I want to pull on corduroys and swirl a scarf around my neck, step into the bracing fall air and just be. I want to perfect my downward dog, arms strong and back straight. I want to run, breathless but not out of breath. I want to learn to cook.
I want him to let me go. I want him to be happy. I want to forgive. I want to stop writing in code.
I want to heal. I want him to be patient.
I want to be proud of my scars. I want to fall in love again.