Two years ago, I thought I already knew love. Today, my knowledge is still growing…
reads the quote on one of my best guy friend’s Instagram photos. A tribute to his girlfriend on their two year anniversary. A sweet testament to the past years of Chicago dinner dates, drunken college shenanigans, Michael Kors watches, trips to North Avenue Beach, running down the sand dunes, dancing at concerts, and plenty more love-filled moments. I’m happy for him.
In the photo, his brown curly hair is cut short and is mixed with the dark curls of his beautiful, Italian girlfriend. I think back to the boy I know–the boy who laughed at me when I stubbed my toe at the neighborhood park and taught me not to take life so seriously, the boy who rushed to get me to the station and when we missed our train, drove the entire way to the city just for a day at the beach; the boy who brought me to my softball game forty-five minutes away when my mom and I got into a fight; the boy who threw a party at my parents’ house when we were out of town; the boy who almost killed me running a red light, the boy who thought my dog’s name was ‘Flesh’ instead of ‘Flash’ and called him that for a good week; and the boy who had somehow become a man when I wasn’t looking.
I smiled at the picture, double-tapped it with my finger to ‘like’ it, then stopped to stare at it for a moment. When I first met this boy, he was a curly-headed, cocky little shit with an emotional side. He was hell-bent on being a heart-breaker, and he thought he was too good for basically the entire female population. But, when he did find a girl he deemed worthy, he fell hard: poems, songs, dinner dates, you name it.
Our friends used to tease him, but I always thought his sensitive side would pay off for the right girl. Two years. Who would have known? It’s crazy to see the people you’ve grown up with grow up even more. I thought I knew what love was, he wrote. Don’t we all? We fall hard and fast and tumble and confuse ourselves with kisses and shared moments and suddenly, years later, we discover we didn’t really know anything. But we learn. Then do it all over again.
In the photo, his arm is wrapped loosely around his girlfriend’s shoulder and his chest is leaned towards her. They are kissing, but smiling, too. His head is tipped forward, hers is tipped back. The photo could be an advertisement for a romantic weekend away. They’re lost in that kiss.
Love is a funny thing. It’s an abstract concept, something that cannot be defined by a word or a gesture, or even a moment. It is a feeling, like when your stomach drops or you feel dizzy for no reason at all. Love creeps up on you. Slowly. Then all at once. And you realize, suddenly, that you understand this warmth in your chest or the smile that melts onto your face. Suddenly, you’re lost in each other’s eyes and someone snaps an Instagram photo that will later be captioned with the perfect quote. Or suddenly you’re scrolling through your social media and a couple’s memories will unravel in your head like a movie on rewind and you’ll feel that dizzy chest warmth, that abstract ‘love’ thing, too.