For a long time, I was foolish enough to think that expressing love for someone (romantic or not) meant that I had to sacrifice a part of myself. I thought it meant losing my independence and I held on, tightly, to that notion, refusing to let go, fiercely protecting myself from that loss.
Eight years ago, I stood on the rooftop of a friend’s apartment building, a few of us lingering above a house party bustling below, and I fell into easy conversation with a fellow graduate student. Numbers were not exchanged but he found me anyway and a few weeks later we went to dinner in the North End of Boston. I had the advantage of being completely disinterested in the entire ordeal. In my mind, I was already in New York City, where I would be moving in a few weeks anyway.
And so, it came as a surprise, years later, when we found ourselves in the same city once again, reconnected with the aid of a since defunct social network, Friendster (Yes. Friendster.) We shared a few meals over the course of a few months. And in October, the weekend of my birthday, I went off to Savannah, Georgia with a few girlfriends, shrugging my shoulders when my friend Lynn asked about ‘the boy’, because I was, yet again and as always, disinterested in the entire ordeal.
My entire birthday passed without so much as a word from him. And standing over a beer in the dusty glow of a Savannah bar, I said, ‘Tyler did not call me on my birthday.’
And Lynn said, ‘I thought you didn’t care.’
I was stubborn. As usual. ‘I don’t.’
I always tell Tyler, had he wished me a Happy Birthday that day, we would not be together. Expressing that would have been far too much for a girl afraid to let go.
And so, on Valentine’s Day, a day to express love, I think about what it really means. It is twenty-four hours. A true gift of time and space to say the one thing that may seem mandatory but is truly not.
I am grateful, every day, for the irony of years spent apart. For Tyler’s silence that day. For time set aside that allowed me to express what I was too frightened to know.