It was a slow, quiet burn in my heart for you. A thing I didn’t know was there until it was. And then it was a five-alarm fire.
My love for you was almost perfect for a while. The kind that relished in your well-being, never tired of your presence, and wanted absolutely nothing from you. My trips to the office water cooler right next to your desk were spaced apart only to spare you the nuisance of my never-ending curiosity.
I don’t know when it turned into something uncontainable. Maybe it was the day you draped your tired body over mine in a long, luxurious, hug after a morning of work outside of the office.
You’d missed me.
Maybe it’s the night you arrived at Googie’s with a shock of yellow flowers in your hands, all for me.
You’d thought of me.
Maybe it’s when I learned that things with your wife were on their way to over.
That had nothing to do with me.
But I know I felt a breeze when I heard the words, “She’s gone away.” Yes, that might’ve been the opening through which the flaw of desire crept in.
I promise I tried to be quiet about it. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of more than what one can reciprocate. I know how uncomfortable, even unbearable it can be. And really, my needs are so few and far between, so used to going without, I could have easily talked myself into silence until my last breath. But she had hurt you. And I so wanted you to know that you were loved and wanted. That she was not all there was, even if she was all you wanted.
When I wrote you that long confession, I held onto it for exactly 24 hours just to make sure I was ready for the repercussions. If I expected anything, it was that you’d disappear from me. Avoid me. I had exactly no hope for us. For you to reciprocate in any way.
And of course, you didn’t disappear. Because it’s not what you do. Which didn’t necessarily give me hope for us. No matter what you said you felt in return, I was as certain of my strictly platonic place in your heart as I was of the sky and wind and rain. I received your affection as thing you gave in pity. But every once in a while, in brief moments, I admit I did feel that light breeze again.
I tried not to act on those moments. But I failed a couple of times. Like one lonely, dark, rainy night at the office, when I was overtaken by the need to call you at home. No one else was in the office. I never, ever called your home number. But that night, I dialed it, not necessarily knowing what worlds I needed to speak or hear.
It rang once, then twice, and then your wife picked up the phone.
I hung up immediately.
And then I walked from West 4th to 59th Street in the downpour, furious with myself for calling, for daring to be disappointed. Block after block, corner after corner, the deep well of hot tears mixed with the cool rain overhead. Both seemed endless.
I finally crawled underground and hopped on the A train home at Columbus Circle, but only because I wasn’t sure I could make it to the next stop in Harlem on foot. The tears had not slowed down. The face looking back at me in the toll attendant’s window had settled into something hard and unforgiving. And when the train arrived, I didn’t sit in any of the empty seats in the car. Didn’t want to make myself comfortable. I was soaked to the bone in my own foolishness.
Still, months later, when you announced that you’d be leaving work to travel to her, to go be with her, to try and save things with her, as you made your good-bye rounds around our dinner table, I felt that breeze again. Because you’d left me for last.
“Goodbye, baby,” was all you said. It was everything. And not enough. Not the way I wanted it to end.
I beg your forgiveness for running outside and forcing that kiss on you, the mark I felt the need to make on you, before you disappeared forever. Nothing about it felt right or good or welcome. Just…politely accepted. And I am sorry.
I never stopped wondering about you. Never stopped wishing you peace and joy and all your amazing heart’s desires. I still have the small, poetic, office notes you wrote me on those now-obsolete phone message pads. My very own playwright’s musings. Evidence of a once-loved heart.
What a marvel it is to me that you’re back in my life. Forgiven.
That our almost 30-year drought is over is my gift. That I get to hug you again, know of you again, see all the peace and joy and your amazing heart’s desires come to pass, is my miracle.
Your eyes are still the loveliest blue I’ve ever seen, my sweet boy, and your heart is still the kindest I’ve ever known. I may likely always cringe when I think of how my own brokenness spilled over onto you. It was maybe the last thing you needed. But when we met again in our old spot, as we held each other tight, all I could think was, how could I not long for a place in this man’s heart?
You are glorious. I love you still and forever. Thank you for loving me back.
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