There’s a new moon tonight. It’s Tuesday, the thirteenth, nine weeks from the evening you became aware of his existence. But he was always there–three blocks from your apartment, two rows over in church, down the next aisle at Trader Joe’s, grabbing a bottle of coconut water while you were contemplating cookies. You probably ran past him in that tiny pine-filled park a hundred thousand times.
Already, you can read the hard set of his mouth, the shift in his shoulders, the love in his eyes. But you can’t push your way through the skin, bone, and muscle to get to the dark matter deep in his blood, where the fear lurks and prowls like a panther in the mist. You never thought you’d be the one standing at the door, knocking, waiting. You pictured yourself hidden on the other side of the divide, trying to decide if it was worth the risk to undo the deadbolt and turn the knob.
This was always going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.
Portland piles leaves the way Boston piles snow, and it doesn’t seem like a problem at first, until you slip into the crater their autumn glow was covering and wrench your ankle in two. It’s what’s beneath the beauty that you have to watch out for.
Somehow, despite your better intentions, the two of you always end up on the floor.
You will leave him smelling of wood smoke, with taste buds newly primed to crave raw fish, with a stomach filled with butter and fire, with veins that plump with longing in the chill of such late nights. The temptation was never to fall closer together. The temptation was always to flee. You are fragile, wounded creatures. You can’t yet see how your battle scars have actually made you stronger.
Maybe you run to his house on these cold, dry, tepid, wet, dark November days, not because it’s the perfect three point five mile turning point on your route, but to see the light in his window, to remind yourself that he is, in fact, there. Here. To remember that down the driveway, past the dumpsters, behind the door it took you weeks to figure out how to open, is a man in the flesh, and he is breathing, in and out and in.
You dreamt you were driving a car. He was sitting beside you. You couldn’t open your eyes. So the two of you switched places while the car was still moving, and then, you carried on.
He will leave you covered in glitter, will never forget the freckles that speckle your left shoulder, will hold tight to the stars you placed in his hands. He will drink champagne to your absence, lifting the glass to the light to watch the effervescence ascend. After all, you cannot save him. You are always only human. This is not a test of your strength. It is a chance to admit your weakness, to fall headlong into the arms of God and wait for Him to work.
No matter what happens, there is comfort in this: you will never forget his name. The first thing you knew of him, the literary perfection of it, the way it came tumbling into your inbox on an email addressed to a dozen, and you thought, No, there’s no way this is real. It’s too perfect. You didn’t tell him how you trembled as you drove to that first meeting, how you begged God, No, take it away. I’m not ready. How God didn’t listen and put him in your path regardless. Because obviously, as always, He knew something you did not.
Love, after all, is a choice; it’s a choice. Like faith is a choice, like breath is a choice, like food and sleep and drink is a choice. Hope, after all, after all, is a choice.
Maybe you should tell him: you were afraid, until the day you weren’t, even though the road was uncertain as ever, even though the fog obscured the narrow, winding way. The stars were veiled, but only slightly, and though the new moon was just a shadow behind so many clouds, you knew enough after twenty-five years on this earth to remember that, in no time, it would illuminate the world, to trust that the light was already coming.