I'm talking about "like" and "love."
I'm pretty sure I've said I love you and didn't mean it quite a few times. I'm pretty sure I said it because it was expected of me. I believe there were times I thought I loved people I was with because they stayed with me.
I went out with guys because they asked me out. I kept going out with them because I didn't want to be alone. I laugh at this now.
I find myself sitting with the one I'm with now and I hold his hand. In public. Without wondering if people are watching. Not caring if they are.
I look him square in the eye and say the most innocent and wonderful of phrases. "I like you." In public. Out loud. Proud of saying this perfect expression of simple affection. He says it back and it'e better than the last 1,000 times I heard a guy tell me, "I love you." I know it's not rushed and I know it's not forced and I know he means it. At this point, I don't care about hearing, "I love you" anytime soon.
We aren't ready to say it yet. We are terrified of saying it. We know the implications of it. We know the destruction that it can bring when spoken too soon and with too little emotion with it.
I finally feel like I'm with someone that understands the brevity and weight of words. I like it when we sit and talk and listen to each other and we forget where time goes. I like that we don't have to say much to convey everything at once.
He doesn't care that I'm overweight right now and likes me for who I am deep down. I can hardly remember what that feels like. I became used to being loved to liked with exceptions as a child. My parents only really paid attention to me when I did well or screwed up. Nothing unconditional. I got into relationships where I only felt like I was truly loved under set criteria. I had opportunistic friendships. He did all the same things and we're both tired of it.
We started hanging out and we just connected. Most of my relationships as an adult started as drunk hookups. So did his. This didn't start that way. The first time we spent any time really talking away from work, we actually talked. No awkward silence. No stilted laughter. A very nervous goodbye kiss. I went home with legs of Jello and a stupid grin on my face. I can't remember the last time that happened. Years ago.
Now I get that stupid grin every time I see him. He hugs me and I feel really hugged. Sometimes, I have to wait all week for that hug. It's worth waiting 5 days. In that instant that he hugs me, I know I am accepted. I am appreciated. I am finally ok.