On nights when I am restless, You tell me you’ve been awake for ages- There’s nothing in the world that should keep me from sleeping.
We were sitting out in the middle of the ocean.
The pier was long and my stride became more and more uncertain with each step away from the shore. I wondered why the planks of wood didn’t touch one another— each space between them was a vignette into the netherworld of unexplored sea.
You were running a hook through a sandworm. The sharp point glided through its body with ease and it wriggled and curled in silence. It left an amber stain between the ridges of your finger prints but you wiped it off without a thought on your old jeans. You flipped back the reel and whipped the worm into the sky, the line whizzing then zipping when locked. The poor thing hopelessly sank into a place I never wanted to be.
Between bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I carelessly asked you if you ever believed in love. Between pops of smoke you settled the fishing pole into a holder and wiped the sweat off of your forehead. You brought your animal killer fingers to your face and sighed deeply, the way someone does when he does not want to speak.
You started off slowly: You know when all the things that you love enough to hold in your hands tell you they will dissipate without trace? And surely as they say it, they sink out of reach into a sea of bad moods and not nearly enough grace to let anything float. Baby, maybe I am stressed and depressed…or more depressed and less stressed, but lately I’ve been thinking about how eager the currents are to crawl over lovers and leave but foam on your eyelids as reminder of what could have happened if you weren’t so quick to surrender. If believing in love means to believe in the sea that captures all tendencies of sleepy-eyed looks and well-suppressed smirks that roll like the nerves when you catch that one sneak—then hell, I believe in no such thing, as they’ve all sunk like this god damned worm tied to its drop shot sinker.
You’re awakening our hearts to Your kingdom.
Heaven is falling as we are declaring Your name.
Come, like you promised.
Come, fall upon us.
When I first met you, our friend said to me, “Hey, don’t even think about it, this guy is out of your league”. Annoying. And so, teeming with my usual need to prove people wrong, I declared my pseudo-love for you.
Lol to be frank though, I didn’t think about you. You were a kind stranger who occasionally gave me rides. You called me “homeboy”—friend-zoned me before you even knew me. Wtf.
You were shy and careful and I was not. You were painfully awkward and there was someone else. I liked to shake hands but yours were always in your pockets. You were there and I was here. We were of different worlds, and that was that.
But there was that one crucial fact that I could not look over. You were incredibly and irresistibly… half Cambodian. Funny, because if not for a summer crush who had forever left in me, a soft spot for that country, if not for our asshole friends, if not for your drink of choice, if not for a hurricane that turned boredom into prospect, who knows where we’d be.
Somewhere in the many nights where we had too much whiskey, where we watched too many sad movies, where I had too many questions that you shared in pondering or answered graciously, I realized you. You were smart and unsettled. You smiled rarely but somewhere in there you smiled at me. You were sweet and easily flustered. You thought too much and you enjoyed egging me on. And over a pot of ramen we were making for our nauseated friend, I noticed that I suddenly felt nervous around you.
Things were messy. There were confounding variables that encumbered our beginnings. But we were so curious—unsure of how to proceed, wondering if the ground beneath a next step would collapse or perhaps stabilize under the weight of collective expectations.
I had been wrong so many times and with a heart so quick to paint reproach, I had to be sure. But an uncharacteristic disposal of my carefully preserved theories and reflexes left me empty-handed and longing for your chance to speak. You didn’t have too much to say, but somehow past the bread-crumb clues, you were sure of surrendering to an inkling.
We were brave, maybe braver than we’d ever been with another person in hand. In retrospect, were we foolish? Slow starts, sure, but what had been the fillip? When did a small strain of interest slip into our daily musings and daydreams? Was it really the pseudo-crush? (Andrew Ryoo, please stand for wingman of the decade.)
In a month spent in quiet and refrain, the clearing of visible remains, an inkling crawled into wonder and wonder asked the old, ill-advised half-joke: “does it hurt without him?” To which my answer was yes. A yes, so much so, that I was resolute in ensuring a continued friendship if this were to all end. I don’t know how many times I asked, “we could be friends, right? You’d still be my friend…?”
No promises were made. But as an unspoken stillness fell in heavy layers, we both understood the weight of our flowering prospect. We both understood the weight of crawling through uncertainties and residual conditions that had grown to tower over the years of loosely-kept watch. We both understood the weight of starting-all-over-again, this time with someone completely unaware of the histories that led us to where we stand now. We both understood the weight of letting god ultimately intervene to hold us at the perfect length apart, so that he’d always stand between us.
I didn’t know that finding someone you want to share and spend your life with, meant finding someone who had so much in common and so much not in common with you. Our commonalities create this dialogue and affinity, while our differences keep us afloat— sometimes you are a swimmer and I am a boat. Sometimes, I am tired and you are the sea. Sometimes, I am a wave and you may be asleep. Even with infinite variables, whatever you lack I have; whatever I need, you give. And in the very many instances where we are both at a spiraling loss, god has been the constant uphold for what we’re hoping to be. And in all the frightening openings for mistrust, whether they be from projections or scars, he has been a fountain of relief. Always the ocean beneath.
As I’ve said before and as I will always say— you’re already him. You’re already so much more than the person I idealized “him” to be. And you’re only and always becoming a more refined and resilient version of who you were a year ago.
I love you because you always bite your tongue to apologize first and over again. I love you because trying your best is never just an attempt. I love you because you let me know you even when it’s painful. I love you because I’ve never met anyone as patient as you. I love you because you see me and treat me sincerely as your equal. I love you because you have a deep frustration and awe in the concept of grace. I love you because god is crazy about you and that makes me crazy about you too. I love you because I always miss you! and I’m excited to add to this story every year.
But really, I can’t believe we’re dating.
1 ”Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to hear my laws. You would almost think this was a righteous nation that would never abandon its God. They love to make a show of coming to me and asking me to take action on their behalf. 3 ’We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don’t even notice it!‘“I will tell you why! It’s because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. 4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? 6 ”No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. 7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 8 ”If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! 10Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. 11 The LORD will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities. 13 ”Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honor the LORD in everything you do, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. If you do this, 14 the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and give you your full share of the inheritance I promised to Jacob, your ancestor. I, the LORD, have spoken!”