When You Love Them Before You Realize You Love Them

Sometimes you love them without knowing the name for it. You do things that you learn are “love” only after the fact, when you later hear love described to you and you think to yourself, “but I’ve had that.”

Sometimes you have this from the moment you meet, and when you pause to think about it, it was always there. Or, in the least, it was never not there. So questions of “falling” seem sort of odd. You always cared about what was best for them. If that’s what people are calling “love,” then so be it.

Sometimes you love them when they are interested in other people who are not you; love quietly enough to step aside and let them have a chance at happiness, if that’s what they think it means.

You love them when you thought you had to set them down, when you part ways for what you think might be the last time and you don’t make a scene because you’re still largely oblivious to your feelings, and all you can think is how excited you are for them and wherever they’re going, and how happy you are that they’re happy — or how sad, conversely, you are if they’re sad.

Sometimes you don’t realize even when you lean in for what could be your last hug, and they say something into your shoulder but all you can hear is the feeling of their voice against your skin.

They could’ve said anything; you didn’t care. You’d remember that feeling forever.

Sometimes when they text or call, you casually would do most anything to see them again. (Even if you aren’t the casually stay-in-touch and drop-everything sort.) Sometimes people slip through our cracks like that, and when everyone else in the world is regarded in one way, there they are over there, a shining example of an exception you always make just for them.

One more drink, a later flight, crashing at each other’s places.

And sometimes it eventually leads somewhere. And you still don’t even realize what it all is until they say to you, “I love you” and you hear yourself smiling back, “I love you, too.”

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