I don’t know when it happened. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment when I fell in love. It happened so gradually that I hardly had time to notice.
What I can tell you is the moment I realized I was in love. I remember every detail with surprising clarity even though I could barely breathe as it was happening. No, it wasn’t a moment that would stand out to others. There were no fireworks or bells or hallelujah choirs singing in the background. There wasn’t a sunset or even a sunrise. It wasn’t a moment of glorious revelation like you see in the movies. The moment I realized I was in love was the moment he broke my heart.
He smiled and laughed and told me about a girl he wanted to date. He was so cute while he nervously chatted away about his plans for the evening and how beautiful the girl was. He told me he had to take things slow with her because she had been hurt before, and he didn’t want to mess up his chances. He told me that he wanted to take her dancing. He was my friend, so I smiled back at him and encouraged him and gave him tips. He didn’t notice that I was slowly dying or that his words were tiny chisels chipping away at my soul or that my world had suddenly turned upside down. I was still expected to smile while he danced me around the room and talked about someone else because that’s what friends do.
I remember the lights were too bright in the ballroom and the floor was too crowded. I remember looking for the exit and finding it much farther away than when I arrived. I remember the air getting thick and my legs getting heavy but forcing myself to walk and not run out the door as I left, or tried to leave after he did, so he wouldn’t notice the tears beginning to well up and sting my eyes. I remember the loud echoes of the deserted hallway and thinking about not thinking. I remember the sharp, sweet smell of the wet grass mixed with the bitter, metallic smell of the wet car park.
I made it all the way to the car before the flood gates opened, before the sobbing racked my body to the point that I couldn’t drive. I stayed there, in that dark parking lot, for what seemed like hours but was really only five minutes. I was grateful that the only light available was from the street lamp behind me, and I eventually forced myself to drive the ten minutes home. Promises of hot showers and warm bubble baths were the only functional thoughts I had to get me through the rain-soaked streets and in my front door. However, once I was inside the house, the showers and baths no longer mattered. My limbs and my heart were so filled with lead that I allowed myself to fall on the bed, still wearing my tear-stained shirt and soggy jeans, as I cried myself to sleep.