Things that aren’t secrets but that I haven’t found the right time to say:

My uncle Scott was someone I loved very dearly. He was 46 years old when he died. He died of blood cancer when I was in 8th grade and all of my peers knew. I went to a small Catholic middle school where every grade was one class of kids and the faculty heard all the gossip.

When Scott died I felt like I shouldn’t, or couldn’t grieve loudly. It tore my mother apart. He was the brother she was closest to, until he married that woman [aunt Gale]. Uncle Scott and Aunt Gale had met in undergrad through their acting program and went on to start a theater in Chicago, which they later shut down in order to move closer to Scott’s parents [Elizabeth and Worthington Smith, my grandparents.] He had always been the favorite child. As an only child, I can half understand that. The job of an only child is balancing between being the favorite and the least favorite.

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the many definitions of “i love you”

1. believing in the unknown

These three words are so small and yet always feel so heavy on my tongue. Sometimes they burn with the subtle intensity of a lighter’s flame and sometimes they’re as sweet as maple syrup. They’ve always revealed so much more than what I wanted people to see.

At a young age, I had already grown comfortable with expressing my emotions under a veil. Childhood crushes plagued my younger years and instilled a thought in my mind that affection was for those pretty girls who could string their words into the most extravagant and gaudy pearl necklaces laced with elegance and effortless flirtation. It’s safe to say that my homemade macaroni bracelets of stuttering and awkward jokes weren’t the sought after bling on the market.

Nights stretched tenfold as I spoon-fed myself episodes of the Canadian teen drama Degrassi so I could learn how sweet this adoration could be.

It was raw, unfiltered, and admittedly filled with unrealistic melodramatic teenage angst, but it was all I knew. They held hands, kissed, and promised to be with each other forever. I could admire that, even through the cold, hard surface of a TV screen.


2. the art of suffering in silence

When I first fell for someone I felt sick to my stomach. Daylight hours were spent in a lucid dream. I was walking along the forearms of Father Time and being constantly bombarded with pictures of his face. Snapshots of his emotional range were present like one of those worksheets you use to explain your pain level to doctors.

My brain shook itself awake, and I was suddenly sitting in my university’s library using an open Psychology textbook as a pillow. His name was scribbled onto the pages.

My hands were shaking  and moist with the unapologetic sweat of nervousness. I was nervous, even though he wasn’t within a ten-mile radius.

But what if he was?

I wasn’t sure, right? He could be nearby and I wouldn’t be the wiser.  

My hands began to shake even harder. His name ran through my head like a mantra that I couldn’t stop internally chanting.


3. unnecessary bliss

I knew voluntarily drowning in the power of infatuation would be both my euphoria and my downfall. But, it’s hard to shake being completely enthralled with another human being. It’s the only time I’ve ever been content with losing control.

I wasn’t sure how he felt. But, what I was sure of was that we were standing on this street corner in the middle of the night with hands locked like two stars merging.

Those three words were like bulls behind my teeth waiting to be set free, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t the right time.

We realized the Metrobus had stopped running and began to walk back to my apartment a mile-ish away.

The city felt as though it existed within its own pregnant pause. Occasionally I’d get distracted by the chatter of a college campus in the distance, but the sound soon faded away.

It was like we didn’t exist.

A flickering sign reading “open” appeared in the distance. It was one of only three 24-hour spots in town. We suddenly realized how hungry we were, and scattered over to the diner to take seats at the first available booth.

As the irreverent crowd of 3 am talked around us, he gave me a look that I had recognized from those off-kilter Degrassi shows that I watched as a kid.

He kissed me as the smell of stagnant maple syrup floated into my nostrils. I ate either pancakes or waffles for breakfast for three months straight.

My mind played on repeat: I love you. I love you. I love you.


4. a spell that stops time

With the day’s worth of Forever 21’s fast fashion and the smell of the mall’s food court lingering on my collar, I had another day of work under my belt. I liked going to work because it was eight hours of my time that I was fully occupied. Eight hours that I wasn’t thinking about why he left.

Since I had just been let out of the belly of the beast, those thoughts began taking shifts within my mind once more. As I walked to the bus stop a block or two away, I checked the bus schedule and realized that they were delayed. It was going to be another 45 slow-as-molasses minutes until it came to my stop.

I sat on the cold bench, plugged my headphones in, and prepared myself to drown in a music playlist.

After a couple of minutes of nodding my head, I felt my phone buzz uncontrollably.

Incredibly, it was a video call from him.

My face became flushed. I was shocked, but not shocked enough to not answer the call.

He looked like no time had passed at all. I, on the other hand, spent my days off counting seconds as they past.

“Hello,” he muttered, fighting a grin from appearing on his face.

I couldn’t even answer back; I just smiled.

I felt all those words lingering behind my teeth once more just waiting to be released. Months of curse words and insults and all those other dark, brooding words stood at attention waiting to be released into the wild.

Meanwhile, those three little words were just sitting in the corner waiting for it all to go down. Then, I released the soldiers.

There was at least fifteen minutes of relentless four-letter words. Tears may or may not have made an appearance.

“I couldn’t believe you could leave me out here while you just left and acted like we never even met and I actually really believed that I really loved you-” The war of words came to a sudden halt. Soldiers stood in mid-air with guns drawn. Swords stood still as the moonlight glimmered upon it.

This wasn’t how I planned this proclamation. You know, it isn’t the thing that you want to say for the first time behind a cloak of tears.

Once I finally mustered the courage to look at him, I noticed that he was smiling. Not a faint one at that, a full ear to ear grin that rivaled clowns.

An air of maple syrup crept into my nose. My hands began sweating. Once more, a soft chant of his name began inside of my mind.