“I love you,” he whispered on the phone. A voice I had become so familiar with over the past four months. A voice which grounded me and made me feel safe in even the most fearful moments.
But while I felt this strong rush of emotion towards this man, I didn’t dare say it. I had to play it cool. There were just too many variables to account for. The most important being: we’ve never met.
I was falling in love with someone I had never even touched or seen in person. And yet, my diary was filled with questions of “if only” and hoping I would find him attractive.
Yup, you read it right. Not only had we never met, but I didn’t even know what he looked like. The thing is, I was afraid to ask for pictures of him. The fantasy of this disembodied voice was too perfect I was afraid of ruining it. I didn’t want to have to tell my best friend I didn’t find him attractive, so I said nothing.
I had to play it cool.
That’s the interesting thing; this man became my best friend, he became the person I wanted to share exciting news with, to work through a problem with, and end my day with. His voice would calm and soothe me enough that the traumatized parts of me were able to fall asleep, smiling. The past fears and PTSD which regularly permeated my nights slowly faded into the background, morphing into white noise.
He was my safe harbor. My rock. But deep down, I was tortured. What if I don’t find him attractive? I thought. Not knowing what he looked like, I guarded myself and my heart. And not wanting to get too attached to him, I kept my walls up and didn’t envision a romantic life together.
And yet, he slowly managed to chip away at the exterior around my heart. His vulnerability and openness and complete willingness to say “I love you” without reciprocation was inspiring, albeit, frustrating. Because I just couldn’t say it. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel it. And before you start judging me, calling me superficial, let me just say something.
I am superficial.
Yes, I know this to be true. I acknowledge this aspect of myself. However, I also know physical appearance is a huge form of my attraction to men I want to date. And in this process of fighting with what I wanted and not knowing if I would be attracted to this man who I had grown so comfortable with, I stopped shaming myself and realized how pointless it was. To ignore the feeling in my body and mind that I want to be madly attracted to my lover, would be dishonest.
But at night, I would secretly pray I would be attracted to him, hoping to work through my own superficiality and just love whatever body his beautiful soul inhabited.
The Disney Dream
Like most girls, I grew up watching fairytales, imagining what it would be like to find Prince Charming. The feeling of being swept off my feet with an epic romance filled my diaries and expectations.
I dreamed about the kind of love that filled me with butterflies and made my heart skip a beat every time I saw my lover smile at me. And I wanted a relationship that was real and built off of unconditional love and compassion for the other person.
But due to a fear of love and fully giving my heart to someone, I attracted relationships lacking the unconditional aspect of love. I had plenty of relationships with physical attraction and butterflies though; I dated the Italian model whose smile took my breath away, and I dated (more than once) the charismatic guy all the girls wanted, who also wanted all the girls simultaneously.
I’ve always been attracted to the sun — you know, the attractive guy that everyone is looking at due to his charisma. The whole world revolves around him and he knows it. Like the sun, he shines and shimmers and makes you feel warm inside; however, the closer you get to him, the more you get burned.
I would constantly seek out relationships with men who were emotionally unavailable, but damn, they looked so good when they broke my heart that it seemed worth it.
My physical attraction and inherent inclination towards competition made finding the best trophy and prize so rewarding. This made my judgment of compatibility less important. And while I found love with these other men, I also didn’t feel the safety I had craved. I was constantly filled with insecurity and jealousy, uncertain of myself and the relationship.
But after reflection and a myriad of failed relationships, I decided I would rather be alone, truly alone — taking away my side hustle of any “interests” or flings — than continue to make the same mistakes that led me to the same place. I knew my inclination to being blinded by the sun rather than blinded by love had led me astray, so I decided to sit with all the ugly and uncomfortable aspects of myself that I used men to distract away from.
I’ve always been attracted to the sun.
So I was more than happy to have a best friend I didn’t find attractive. I was actually quite excited about it! This way I could have a male friend who I trusted and could build a platonic relationship with.
We could cuddle and spend endless hours together laughing and creating a welcomed container that felt safe to experience the masculine energy. I thought I had found my perfect gay best friend.
The problem was, he wasn’t gay. And he fell in love with me.
Running from love
My master plan was ruined. My hopes of spending platonic slumber parties together became much more complicated. This knowledge made my walls more impenetrable. Every “I love you” ricocheted off my armor and chainlink chastity belt.
Since I respect other people’s feelings and hearts way more than I desire my own selfishness, I never fully opened my heart to him. I wanted to be responsible with the fragile heart I held in my hands. So the feelings which were present (from both sides) were incapable of being fully received.
We grew closer everyday, spending hours talking about life and our dreams. I could feel this attachment to him grow stronger, so I made sure to protect him. I set boundaries and was very clear with my intentions and my feelings. I tried to divert him from sniffing out my trail — a good ol’ country term for the good ol’ country boy he was.
I didn’t want him to perceive my expanding feelings for him to be skewed as romantic. And yet, this man persisted through it all. I could feel his deepening love for me and I was convinced it needed to stop. I wanted to make sure I saved his heart from utter breakage.
Every “I love you” ricocheted off my armor and chainlink chastity belt.
After several brief interludes of me declaring I wanted distance and space, I would always come back to him. Like the prodigal son, I came back to the voice that felt like home.
And we continued to be best friends, him never wavering on his outpourings of love and sending me songs that expressed his feelings for me, while I held steadfast to my resistance and barbed-wire fence protecting my heart.
Then one day, he sent me pictures of himself. And he was hot. Like, so hot.
Everything changed in a moment. My world was shaken up and the walls around my heart began crumbling down in an instant. The love that had built up outside my walls flooded through and I was knocked backwards by the force. I felt as if I had hit my head and was living in a fairytale.
I couldn’t believe the great fortune I had stumbled upon. I had a man who loved me unconditionally, a man who I shamelessly told everything to because he was my best friend and I didn’t have the typical “we’re dating so I have to be on my best behavior” mask on.
I had been secretly falling in love with this man but unwilling to admit it until the last missing piece fell into place. And when it finally did, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief.
I immediately wanted to meet him, to see him. And as we started talking about flying to see each other, COVID-19 struck the world in a wave of upheaval, causing dreams and plans to shift collectively, and my love life to be put on hold.
The eagerness to finally see this man who I not only had fallen in love with his voice and his soul, but also his face, growled angrily inside my stomach, imagining having to wait an unspecified amount of time until we could actually meet.
To say I lived the first months of quarantine in utter bliss would be a gross exaggeration. Those same fears, the same trepidation of falling so headfirst into love were still active in my existence. All the trauma and past conditioning came up and shook hands with the inherent stress of a long-distance relationship.
However, this man has stayed by my side, or rather, has remained on the other side of the phone this whole time. Through my fear and hesitancy, my trying to breakup with him (multiple times), my anger, my trauma, and my desire to be free, he has always been there.
I felt as if I had hit my head and was living in a fairytale.
While there is still uncertainty in not knowing what it feels like to touch him and be with him, I truly love his soul and his heart, despite what he looks like. His devotion and commitment has been an example of unconditional love, to a degree I’ve never experienced in my life.
He inspires me to love more, to open my heart more, and to trust in another person. He made me believe in real love again. And most importantly, he makes me feel safe.