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how to (really) love someone

First, eliminate every stereotype about love that lives in your naive little brain. Evict the princes & princesses that inhabit the Disney neighborhood of your mind, forget that one book you read the summer after 7th grade about the girl & the beach & the dude that loved her despite her speech impediment. Let go of the guy in the band that you smoked cigarettes with in high school—the one that told you that you were different. He lied. You aren’t. Okay, maybe a little.

Go to college. Feel out of sync but oddly electric. Smile at all the different breeds of boys. Expect too much from a frat boy. Er, maybe expect too much from 3 frat boys. Stop smiling at boys after one guy told you to go to his room & wait for him. You wait for an hour & he comes in the room with another girl. He pretends like he’s never seen you before & tells you to walk home.

Slowly start to accept you know nothing. Like, you’re getting older but you have no wisdom/ knowledge/ worldliness. Go to 18-to-enter club that you make fun of at school, but wait in line at every Thursday night. Notice the most handsome man you think you’ve ever seen. Start to smile, but then remember how that has worked out for you in the past. Set your lips in a straight line & conjure your sexy walk. He doesn’t look, but it’s okay. You’re too busy stretching your hip flexors in the corner. You think you may have broken something with that strut.

Stay sore from your attempted seduction for the next few days. Remain comforted by the fact that this soreness makes you think of him, whoever he is. Not like you’ll ever see him aga–BAM. You see him. You meet your friend at Starbucks & he’s studying with her. They make jokes about being friends, to your relief. The whole time you are sitting in the chair, your brain is screaming,“THAT’S THE GUY THAT’S THE GUY THAT’S THE GUYYYYYY.” Pretend to read the newspaper, but really just read the same headline over & over. It’s hard to focus with that siren ringing in your ears.

Go to the same club that night. See him. Talk to him. Smile, but stay cautious. Go to weird party with him after closing time. Weird, as in, you’ve never seen cocaine in person until this party. You’ve never been the only white girl in the room until this party. Secretly test him to see if he accepts the cocaine or not. He doesn’t and you don’t either.

He kisses you for the first time in the street, outside another bizarre party three weeks later. Stay nervous around him the first few months. Think of him everyday for the next two and a half years. Wonder if you’ve ever liked a face as much as his. Wonder if you’ve ever hated a face as much as his.

Feel pain. No words to describe it, soul-crushing, heart-breaking & healing pain. When you fight, cry tears that start as a lump in the throat & somehow end up in a little puddle in your bra. Tears nestled in your chest, like they’re trying to seep into your skin & make their way back to your heart.

Laugh. Watch every movie ever, in the theater & on Netflix. In an attempt to make him think you can cook, toast the bread every time you make him a sandwich. It doesn’t take long for him to see through this (brilliant) trick. Tell each other dark and sad stories. Talk. Talk so much you feel like your tongue might fall out, but you’ve never felt more in tune with someone, so you keep talking. Go to work & class exhausted. Your eyelids are barely holding your eyeballs, and your hair is a mess, but your heart is beating a little faster. That’s got to count for something.

Realize you love him in a real way. Get scared. Don’t tell him. You realize you love him when you turn on the TV in the middle of a movie. He asks if you’ve seen it, and you say no. He pauses it, and describes it in detail up until that point. Mesmerized, you watch him talk, but don’t really listen. You get another alarm sounding off in your head, this one goes, “I LOVE THIS GUY I LOVE THIS GUY I LOVE THIS GUYYYYY.”

Break up. Get back together. Probably break up & get back together like 3 times. This is the prescribed amount. Do this for a reason too complicated to explain, at least, that’s what you tell everyone. Cry liters, possibly even gallons of tears. Miss him like you’ve never missed a human before. Don’t speak for nearly two months. See him again and collapse, feel like you came home. Don’t officially agree to get back together. Fall back into comfortable, sweatpants-wearing love.

You’re a little older. Start to feel like you know things. Know that love is a mess of tears and hearts. Learn relationships are anything but easy. Understand the way you love him is an art. It’s a waterfall of inspiration. You paint him with every color you can dream of. You write poems, all of them spell his name. Wake up with his arms pulling you a little closer in the middle of the night. Sigh. Then, smile. Never stop smiling.

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