Not all love stories end with wedding bells. Big love does not always announce itself when it arrives on the doorstep. No, some love never leaves the heart yearning for a missing beat. Sometimes love rests peacefully; a muted glow in the middle of a stormy night. Sometimes who we get is not who we wanted, but instead who we needed.
With reputations that preceded us, we were an unlikely pair. But timing and location brought us together and a fast friendship was formed. He made me laugh and think. Layers of deep talks took long naps on top of no talking at all. I felt alive. He made me feel alive. A lopsided grin impossible not get a smile in return. A daredevil with a quick wit that put mine to the test. The banter was non-stop. Somewhere along the way, the days grew longer and my feelings for him grew deeper. I was sure that, come autumn, leaves would not be the only thing falling.
I planned for falling, but I wasn’t prepared for breaking. And hurting. And rejection. He chose her. The darling one. She was sweet and charming and I should have known that she would be his. I cried. I sat in my mom’s dining room and sobbed into folded arms. Like any mom, she wrapped her arm around me and told me it would be okay.
As the world woke up from its winter nap, so did I. I was stronger, my head held a little higher than before. I gathered myself, took a deep breath and looked up. She was standing in front of me. She was everywhere. With him. I smiled and nodded and accepted that she was his and he was... my friend.
He was my friend, but I would be damned if she was. Why be friends with someone when I could, instead, hold a bitter grudge toward them and live in misery? I stood firm that her and I would never be close. The shitty part about my big, stubborn decision was that I kind of liked her. She was funny and hardworking. She knew I blamed my sadness on her and yet she still greeted me with a smile every single time I saw her.
One night, we ended up sitting out on their deck, side by side in the dark. She was spilling her guts. She was describing the struggle to be herself without losing him. Not sure why she was telling me, I stared out beyond trees to the sparkling lights of Mukilteo. I feigned disinterest, even though I was soaking in every word. A part of me wanted to be her friend. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay. I looked over at her, her sorrow diluted as it floated out over Puget Sound. This was the crossroads. I knew I had the words to comfort her. I looked over my shoulder into the kitchen. The light spilled out on to the deck. Beyond the window was his lopsided grin. I looked at him and knew that while I could love him, he would never be able to love me. The time had come for me to make a decision: hold on to my past or embrace my future. I sighed as I felt myself give into the universe. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder, still looking at the lights in the distance and said, “It’s going to be okay.”
He didn’t choose me and because of that, I got to choose her. Seven years later, Jaime is my rock. We ended up being roommates, co-workers and best friends. We still laugh about our story, about how he brought us together.
There are more memories than I could ever capture in the flimsiness of these two dimensions. For us, Central Oregon was late nights in lawn chairs, wrapped in blankets under the falling snow, wondering where life would take us next. Riding the chairlift down from work in the glow of the setting sun, giggling about the latest scandal, clutching travel mugs filled with red wine. “Loungewear Sunday” evenings at the local pub playing dominoes. Floating the river, reading in hammocks and finding our friends out and about.
In our journey from that darkly lit deck on the island to the skyline of Portland, we grew up. Seven years ago I knew I had the strength to pull her out of the dark. What I didn’t know is that she would return the favor over and over again.
No, not all love stories end with wedding bells. It isn't always about finding the love. Some of the biggest love comes from the people who own the strength to wrap their arms around you and tell you it will be okay.