I always thought it meant more to write about pain, heartbreak, death… because who hasn’t felt the knots in their gut when something twists inside them and felt the fraying ropes pull apart. It resonates more because we’ve all felt it. We haven’t all felt the pure unfiltered love story that I’m about to tell you, the sort of imperfect love where you’re in your early 20s trying to navigate through a labyrinth of love and life that feels familiar and yet is still so new to you.
It is so like the movies in that all that matters is me and you, the floor sturdy beneath your feet in a way that it wasn’t before and the sunsets more orange, more pink, more colourful. And yet it was nothing like movies. It wasn’t superficial, it was real and had depth greater than the oceans and I know because of how imperfect we were and that just made me slip and fall for him even more. Wind will twist the strands of my hair and paste it to my lip gloss seconds before he was going to kiss me, my shirt will get stuck on my head when he’s trying to take it off and occasionally, just occasionally, he’ll put milk in my coffee when I drink it black.
‘Which one is mine Zeke?’ My eyes flitted from one mug to the other, milky coffee gently swirling in both. Steamy wisps filtered upwards as his arms snaked around my waist and his head came to rest on my shoulder, his dyed cobalt hair felt like a feather against my cheek.
‘I did it again, didn’t I?’ He winced and I felt his body pull away from mine and reach for the mug on the left to pour its contents down the sink.
Intercepting his muscled arm, I plucked the mug from his hand and inhaled that sweet aroma of coffee beans. ‘I’m sure it will taste amazing.’ A smile formed naturally on my oval face as I stared up at him, leaning my hip against the counter.
‘I don’t mind making you a new one Athena.’
Yes, you heard right. Athena and Ezekiel. We had the names of gods.
People try and pinpoint the moment they fell in love but how can I when I loved every single part of him, and it was at different moments that I noticed the different parts of him. Everyone really thinks they’ve cracked the code to being in love, but I honestly think I have, and there’s five parts to it. The first part is the coffee, okay fine I hear you saying he made it wrong, but he remembered and then offered to start his efforts over. It’s not about being perfect but accepting your faults and willingness to try again.
The second part involves a piece of paper and 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
In case you still haven’t guessed, he made me a paper aeroplane. It was one of those nights where winter has reached out it’s cold fingers and no one dares venture outside, so we sat huddled together on the worn carpet in front of the coal fire my parents still had installed even though we hardly ever used it since the pigeon nest incident last year.
We played poker and I won all his chips on a bluff that I had nothing left to lose. I had just enough for the buy in and one bet so laughingly went ‘oh go on then, all in.’ He obliged and I threw down my cards to reveal a royal flush and claimed his heaving pile of blue and black and green plastic. Then we’d played a trivia game we were both equally awful at and one of the questions concerned a paper plane.
‘I’ve never made one.’ I looked up at him across the trivia board, it’s multicolour squares blending into one another as the flames heat licked up the right arm.
‘Not once.’ I responded as he reached for an unused score card and used skilled fingers to fold the stiff card into a small aeroplane shape.
The evening bled on in a cocktail of black coffees, the movement of cone shaped pieces on boards and light-hearted ribbing. All too soon the front door closed behind him and I began the tedious task of clearing away mugs with dregs swimming at the bottom and scraped chocolate wrappers into bins. Using my thumb and index finger, I picked up his paper aeroplane and hovered it over the open bin knowing instinctively that I wouldn’t be able to throw it away because he had made it.
He made it in a swift minute, discarded and forgotten moments later but his fingers had creased those corners and folded those sections. It still sits proudly on my windowsill to this day.
The third part was when I realised that I found comfort in his presence. When I had no makeup on, messy hair held in a ponytail and wearing one of his oversized hoodies he looked at me with something like adoration in his eye and called me beautiful. With my spots that looked like red pin pricks lining my chin and unplucked eyebrows and a cookie poised halfway between hand and mouth. I didn’t have to be anything other than me.
The fourth part requires rain. You can tell a lot about a person in how they react to the rain. A few gentle drops will send some people into a tailspin whilst others will balance umbrellas in the crook of their elbow and stroll right through puddles feeling unencumbered and free, the sky firing watery bullets at their legs.
He’d taken my pale hand in his slightly more tanned one, my dark purple nail varnish chipped and staring up at me and used his other hand to pull my coat zip higher so that I was protected again the rain that had started to spit at us as we walked through autumn leaves that crunched underfoot.
‘I love the rain.’ I tilted my face upwards and stuck my tongue out so that it caught the falling drops, little splinters of ice in my mouth.
It began to rain harder, faster, with more intensity. Coats weren’t enough to protect us from this relentless shower, jeans pasting to our legs and wellington boots splashing mud up their sides. He laughed, his face splitting in two and ran through the middle of a puddle forming in front of us, my hand still clasped in his, so I was dragged along on his adventure. It was a time for laughing, for getting wet in the rain and for realising that he liked the rain too, so this was okay, this was going to work.
My darling reader I don’t think I’ve explained this well enough for it to resonate within you how pure, how unfiltered, how unchanging this love was. It was the sort of feeling that came with being so unafraid from being young and reckless in love but still old enough and bruised enough from previous experiences to know that this was different, and this would last. I can’t explain it because truly I don’t understand it myself, but I knew this wasn’t fleeting, I was never going to cry over my heartache when one of us walked away three years in. No, I would glance at him with his greying hair and wrinkles creasing his eyes and know that we had made it. So maybe I haven’t explained, and you haven’t understood but I still owe it to you to tell you the fifth part.
The fifth and final part is the giving of a meaningful gift, even when you don’t expect it. Especially when you don’t expect it. And he gave me the greatest one of all.
My hand lightly grazed my hardened stomach, they call it a kick, but it is more of a flutter like butterfly wings tapping on glass.
We are not perfect, but I kind of love how imperfect we are.