When I was young, I loved deeply. I’d meet strangers and upgrade them to the best friend tier within weeks. I wanted to share my entire life with my family, my extended family, and my classmates.
I fell in love with buildings, places, and songs. I cried when we flew out of Egypt, head against the cold airplane window, because I didn’t know when I’d be back to one of the most gorgeous countries in the world.
I loved and I loved deeply, passionately, unreservedly. I wrote poetry because my heart was open, the words were honest, and there were deep feelings that I wanted to let out into the world. I did not love because it was easy. It was because I did not know any other way to live.
But if you wear your heart on your sleeve, it will get tattered. And over and over and over again, I paid the price for it.
When I was four, my grandmother died. I remember it clearly, young as I was. I was in my parents’ bathroom, reading a book, and they opened the door with the news. My mother is still not over it, twenty years later. In Hindu culture, you don’t sugarcoat or lie about death. You don’t pretend they’re in a better place now. So I knew she was gone and that that was the end of her food and smiles and hugs.
At six, my best friend and I were ripped apart from each other. My memory doesn’t go back far enough to remember why but I do know I have no memories from before her. I knew her from before my sister was born, from before preschool. She was my blood, my family, my life. And then one day, something happened, and I never saw her again. Ever.
At thirteen, my older cousin who had raised me like an older brother — my mom refers to him as her first kid — disappeared from our lives. His mother and my father had issues and he just decided to stop coming over. I would later call to ask him why I, his younger sister, hadn’t been worth fighting for and he would tell me that he had to spend more time with his nuclear family.
At sixteen, I realized my uncles would never care about me, respect me, or treat me as equal to their sons, even though I adored them. I realized I’d never see my paternal aunts again or my cousins’ children.
My eldest uncle died without speaking to us. My grandfather died without seeing us. My great-grandmother, the only grandparent I’d really ever known, died the same time her son (a man like my grandfather) did.
At eighteen, I was bullied in school and harassed on the streets. I was too naive to even realize fellow law students were using me as a joke.
At twenty, I lost many of my friends at once because I went through a difficult time in my life and few of them wanted to stick around — even those I had helped through disaster, disease, and death before. It turns out that many people who are happy to wet others’ shoulders with their tears are insistent on keeping their own shirts dry.
Yet through all of the pain and the hurt, for years, I would keep trying. I would tell people I’d love them, knowing they’d laugh in my face. I would text my cousins for the third time in a row, begging them to respond at least once a year. I let my friends get away with anything and everything.
Until one day, I didn’t. I just stopped. I refused to give people the power to hurt me anymore. I refused to cry. I refused to feel.
I convinced myself I was content, happy even. Law school was amazing. I was in no pain and the healthiest I’d been in a while. I was one of the most popular people in my friend circle and at my university — for the first time in my life.
But I was hollow. Lonely. Isolated. I had started to internalize being worthless, being nobody, and being unwanted.
I stopped writing poetry.
Then, one day, I fell in love. This is the sort of the thing that is supposed to happen slowly. But as you may already be guessing from my story, it did not happen slowly to me.
He and I had been friends for a couple years, but genuinely just friends — we vehemently pushed back against everyone who had been shipping us. I had a hard day, he sent me a text to make me feel better, and the next week we were talking marriage. (And not jokingly.)
Over the next few weeks, I would start to feel things for other people again: my best friend from college, my other best friend, and my new best friend. I had never told them I’d loved them because it hadn’t been true. But suddenly it was.
And for the first time in years, I had poetry to write. I had metaphors I wanted to make and words I wanted to rhyme. I didn’t write it for him, per se, but because I wanted to write.
Then, when it was done, I gave it to him. Because that is what you do with love poems. Because that is what you do with love, I realized. You give it. After one month of dating or one decade. Hoping it is going to last forever or knowing it won’t. It doesn’t matter.
It is love and it is not meant to be contained.
No matter how much you’ve been hurt before, I truly believe that it is better to give and give again. Sometimes hearts break, sometimes they shatter, and sometimes they crumble to dust. But they are never so dissolved that they are incapable of some form of beauty. Sometimes the light that shines through broken glass is the prettiest of all.
So now I share this with the world, deep and vulnerable as it is, because I want everyone to know that no matter how dark a cavern you find yourself in, there will always be someone who waltzes in, carrying such a bright light that the fog is forced to fade. And if you’re very, very lucky, they will shine, they will illuminate, and they will blaze. But they won’t burn.
He was my someone. And this was the poem.
I froze the warmth of childhood
in tears that etched my face,
in crimson blood I used to win
the ribbons of my race.
To me, I was a monster;
with others, far too nice.
And poetry is hard to write,
when hearts are made of ice.
The things I would have wanted
to remember in a rhyme
were forgotten by the fleeting days
and faded nights of time.
So this, the first I’m writing,
in many years of wait,
in many stares of hardness,
in many tests of faith:
It has to be of something
that makes the waters flow,
of something I can drown in,
with broken eyes aglow.
Set blazing sun on shadows,
feed hunger to my brain.
Make the mountains tremble,
with all the welcome pain.
Spin legends from the sunset,
and crystals out of dew,
when these careful lips of mine,
say I’m in love with you.
Today, I still lose friends every year for the stupidest reasons.
Today, I still cling too hard to too many people and get deeply hurt when they do not offer anything back.
Today, I still question why I of all people have been given a heart that gets so easily scarred when I have so many things to take care of and so little time to live.
But one of my three best friends is still my best friend. My sister works with me. I call my mother four times a day.
And I’m married to him.
It’s not enough. But it’s enough.