i love you.
by Michael King
I love you. Here, now, this very second. I know, I know –– there are a million metrics, a multitude of ways we convince ourselves we’re not measuring up, but you’ve got no argument to make here. Right now, as you are, I love you.
Valentine’s Day makes my hands go gentle. Nestled in the thick of February, right here in the tangle of chilly gray, a day devoted to saying love out loud. Across the world, children will tuck valentines into one another’s desks, heart-shaped candies staining small palms. Couples will remember each other, set aside time to see each other with fresh eyes. (Do they recall the longing? The staring out into the great, wide world? The wondering if someone out there is doing the same thing?)
When I was in love, Valentine’s Day was the most honest joy. In secret, I plotted flowers, gathered conspirators to ensure they arrived as a surprise. I hustled not only to hand them roses, but to paint them up all over the walls. I searched my heart, found the words blooming bountifully, shared them with striking sincerity.
My first Valentine’s Day on my own, then, found me at odds with myself. What to do with all this love? Just days away, anxiety creeping up my limbs, and I’d have nothing to do but sit, heart abundant, and nowhere for that love to go.
Valentine’s Day morning, it fell over me immediately –– there were plenty of places for it to go. That evening, I picked up one of my best friends, took him to dinner. Lifting a beer, I told him how much he meant to me –– words still bountiful, sincerity still striking –– and we both choked back tears. I sent a message to my students, promising they were all worthy of exactly the love they longed for. Your heart may be broken, the words of a friend, but your love still works.
Each year, February 1 arrives, and I find excitement working its way into my bloodstream. Valentine’s Day is just ahead, I realize, where can I plant roses this year?
And, each year, before I set out to start putting roses up on everybody else’s walls, I make sure to place some up on my own. I reflect on this heart, this body, this soul, and consider how decidedly my own this life gets to be. Study myself in the mirror, eyes like rose petals brushing against the slopes of my shoulders, and decide –– the love is for me, too.
I love you, and I see you. I see the small ways you try to make the world around you better, small nods at strangers, sharing a picture you took right at the break of the rain. We are, all of us, icebergs, our vast multitudes hidden away, only presenting each other with our palatable best. I know you contain hopes, dreams, griefs.
I love you, in the body you’re in right now. Not twenty pounds from now, not if you’d just had more time to do something with your hair, your makeup, your clothes. In the mirror, your eyes have the habit of marking yourself up with red ink, but they miss the loveliest parts –– the way your smile puts people at ease, a sunray against the concrete, the way your eyes know just how to be with someone when they say something in a shaking voice.
I love you, in your grieving and breaking and falling apart. I love you in your wild complexity, the rich tangle of pain and love and hope and fear that comprises your being. I understand your sorrows have made you compassionate, heartbreaks made you strong, fears made you gentle.
I love you in the daytime, walking on your own and carefully jumping to avoid cracks in the sidewalk, and I love you at night, solemn beneath the stars. You are a thousand elements and a single element alike, a stack of gathered stories and a bundle of handwritten hopes.
I love you in the age of wanting, in the times that find you watching the horizon in hope. I love you on the mornings you wake up determined, setting your sights on mountains and embarking, and I love you on the evenings you come home bruised.
I love you here, now, this very second. You deserve every bit of the love you’re searching for. There are roses for you, not just in my hand, but all around you, if you’ll open your eyes, let yourself see them. They reach for you, the petals, unfurling softly in your palms the moment you reach back.