The Few Men the Heart Loves
By Z Zoccolante
When I was little I used to think that people holding hands were in love and that they had everything in life figured out. I used to think there were happy endings and I believed in fairytales. Then I grew up, some shit happened, and I realized that things are much more intricate than they seem.
Maybe there are just factual endings and we are the ones that create our happily ever after.
Relationships are beautiful and complicated. Things aren’t black and white. We all do our own suffering. There are spider webs, the delicate ties that pull us together even as they separate us with the space in between.
We all come with a past, of love and loss – the karma of being on each side of the equation. I had a conversation recently in which someone told me about their ex from a time ago. I asked them what about them did you love? They expressed a few idiosyncrasies, which I thought were endearing as a smile crested their face while sharing them. Still, I realized that much of what we can get caught up on is how the person makes us feel, not about the person themselves.
Of course, we get glitter in our veins when we feel the sparkle of someone else. But who is that person without how they make us feel? Who are they? What do we like or love about them? What about them makes them who they are?
I think about the few people who’ve caught my heart. Even though I use the words “I love you friend” with my friends, or I “love” cookies, my heart has only romantically loved 3 people. And when I step back, I think I’ve loved two of them in the way that didn’t have to do with me but was about loving them for who they were.
And since my heart does not easily love, does not easily truly let people in, when I love someone it sucks because I just fucking love them.
It feels as though my heart has rooms but there’s a no vacancy sign. And every now and then someone slips through the cracks in the wall and begins to take up space. They start leaving little items – a watch on the dresser, a shirt over a chair, their favorite coffee mug in the dish rack, their smell in my bed.
And they enter my mind in pictures like wallpaper – a shy smile, mid-sentence laughter making me want to reach across memory and kiss their lips with mine but I don’t. Eyes that pull like mercury magnets. Sunsets and golden warm light through the window shades. Night skies, sandy feet, music, and the feeling of adventure. Reading books in the shade of trees and driving in silence that feels like peace.
If our life has been about keeping people out, letting someone in is vulnerable and terrifying. Holding out our heart is many things. Sometimes hindsight reveals it was partially an unconscious act done because the parts of us that loved them were stronger than our no, stronger than the part that filters through every minute of the day, puts up walls and barriers, and finds ways to build a fortress with whatever’s around.
Letting go is hard. Letting go can happen in a moment.
So I fall into my pillow of dreams knowing that I love you for you, not for what you offered me or the wonderful ways you made me feel. There is my love and it exists in the ether with no tether to a future that isn’t real.
There’s a room that maybe you still live in. Maybe I no longer visit that room but it still has the power to make me smile and I can still choose, in conscious and unconscious ways, to keep my heart full without you. And that is why I still believe in fairytales.
But not the ones I saw when I was little. I still believe in fairytales, but this time it’s the ones where we’re all the villains and we heal.