Today when I maybe shouldn’t have been doing so much Twittering and a little bit more working, I saw the most adorable Ross and Rachel graphic (you know Ross and Rachel—that couple on Friends who may or may not have been on a break?) It was a series of screenshots from the finale when – spoiler alert – Rachel got off the plane, and we got to see the two finally get their acts together. The Tweet got oodles and oodles of retweets, but all I could think was “ugh, I would never, ever, ever want that.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid Friends fan who will always maintain that Ross is Rachel’s lobster, but I can’t in good conscience romanticize the relationship those two yahoos had, because I’m pretty sure when you look up the word “dysfunctional” in the dictionary, you see a photo of Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer as their iconic characters.
Because seriously, who wants to drag out a relationship with the supposed love of their life for ten whole years? Who wants someone as jealous as Ross, or as flighty as Rachel? Who wants to wait until their shared child is two years old before they actually get together for good? Who wants an entire relocation to France to be what makes you and your S.O. see that you were meant to be together?
It’s just nothing I could ever do, and I wouldn’t want to. When (if) I fall in love with someone, I don’t want it to be the juicy drug that I can’t kick; I want it to be like the sun. I want it to be the thing that keeps me warm, the thing that I know rises and sets the same, the thing that is in my life every day but never stops being beautiful.
And I don’t want to get off the plane to show my S.O. how much I love him; I want to have something that makes me not want to get on it at all.
The blue lights from the TV licked the wall behind us and I looked down at him looking up; it was like the sadness in our eyes suddenly lined up against each other like the two sides of a magnet.
“But it’s yours that’s cruel,” I said. “Sometimes it’s loud, like mine. Sometimes it’s loud, like the gunshots at Valley Forge, like the fireworks overhead tonight. Like the tires screeching to a halt. And just when it has kept me company and sung me to sleep, it grows quiet. It’s like my ear is pressed against nothing, like I’m burying my face against air. And just when I’ve found my own background noise, my own steady rhythm, it starts beating again.”
I love you because of the way you smile when you don’t think that I’m looking and the wrinkles near your eyes. I love you when you place my hand on top of yours, palm-to-palm, and make fun of me for how much smaller mine are and I love you when you pull me by my scarf so I can be closer to you. And I love the way you know how to navigate my body without some kind of roadmap. And I know, I know it’s all these things that sound so stupid and so cliché; I never wanted to be that kind of writer, the kind who talks about a smile or a laugh or the way a heartbeat sings me songs when I’m about to fall asleep, but before it was books or words, before it was crinkled manuscripts and dreams that were bigger than I could cup my hands around, it was you. I fell in love with you first.
So I’m going to tell them about those nights in my car. Everyone else, that is. You see it’s funny because I never really saw a car as the paramount in romantic imagery; I mean sure, I’ll give it to the Titanic, Kate Winslet’s hands gripping the fogged car windows, that maybe in those parts of my mind I’ve felt the sensuality of the moment. But now when I think of love, I find you sitting in my passenger seat, summer and its warm breezes and the way sometimes we only whisper to each other and how most of those nights you were asking me to stay. I never thought I’d let love rest there in my car seat, off seeing the world, or whatever the fuck it is you’re doing anyways.
And maybe I can tell them about that morning in your house. How I’d crawled up the stairs and I was so jumpy. Maybe it was because we were young or maybe it was because you were the first boy to look at me like he was really looking at something but my heart was beating so fast and it almost felt like the end of a movie. Your grandmother was wandering about the house whenever I was sneaking back to mine and you commented on how it was okay because she didn’t speak much English, but that doesn’t make her blind. She always smiled at me anyways.
Maybe I would tell them about the way you hold my hands. You do not work with your hands but when you press your palm against mine it is like you are laboring to repent for whatever sins we have committed. But maybe it’s not that special afterall; finger-lacing is preferable to cupping for anyone who’s in love. Maybe I would tell them that in art, Mary Magdalene is recognizable in paintings of Christ’s descent from the cross because her fingers in knots are a symbol for sex, but we’re trying to be holy here.
But I think I’m going to tell them nothing. Because in the end it is your mouth I look to when the words seem to have gone from mine and it is you who these small things in my life remind me of. It is you who I count down the days until seeing and you who pushes my hair behind my ear and who knows how to smile all of my smiles for me because sometimes I need that.
So I hope that answers your question. You asked it months ago on a couch in a basement and my heart was beating fast and you and I were sober by that point. I’m sorry I was so scared then and I’m sorry I was mad or maybe it was just moody or tired, but I couldn’t keep chasing you in and out of my love poems. You know that I love you for releasing the shame from my capacity for forgiveness and I think maybe I have my answer for you now. What do I want from you? Well I want you to stay.