Hard brew.

Once upon another time, there was a girl whose hopes and dreams left her aching for time to go faster. Her heart was massive, her faith unshaken.

“What could possibly go wrong tomorrow?”

Now, her cigarette smoulders in her makeshift ashtray. She’s been putting off getting a real one because she cannot bring herself to admit that she’s been a slave to this nicotine tyrant for a good part of her life now.

The island is vast, but life is short in her city. There’s a knot in her gut just kicking and screaming.

“Do people in my life care enough to love the muddy parts of me just as much as the shiny ones?”

It’s five minutes before 11. She sits and marinates in the gloom and silence. How many others share her delusions of a high-functioning adulthood?

Melancholy brews in the pot and she sips from cups filled with her own internal tantrums. She has yet to pick out what to wear for work tomorrow. She keeps staring at the clock wishing, praying for time to stop so she can while away in the standstill.

“Can I put off life for a little while longer?”

Only a few know the way she breaks. Only a few have cared enough to help pick up the pieces. Her light flickers most days and she dreads the burnout. Her grief changes shape, but it never ends.

Lighthouse.

In high school, my friends and I would go to the park every Friday to hang out at the only tempura stand in the city at the time. It was every student’s go-to whenever one gets a hankering for some unhealthy street food. Fried tempura with Coke was as gourmet as allowance-bound high schoolers from a small city could go. Get your fill for nothing more than 20 pesos, exchange stories, and share a few laughs before heading home. While the exact date escapes me, it was on one of those Fridays that I first saw you.

You reminded me of those reluctant characters I saw in movies: A boy too tall for his age, back slouched, hair slicked back, and eyes transfixed by the ground like it was the most interesting he’s ever seen.

How peculiar, I thought. How ironic that the shy ones stand out to me the most. While the world tries to grab my attention, my eyes will always gravitate toward the ones who aren’t trying; the ones who stand still and beam like a lighthouse bringing a lost ship to shore. My eyes have always searched for the horizon amidst the chaos of the sea. It wasn’t love at first sight, but the shy boy made an impact. It simply didn’t occur to me then.

My next memory of you was in college: A boy still too tall for his age, back slouched, head with wild, cascading curls, and eyes looking straight at me this time. It wasn’t long before we became social media friends, but never friends in real life. Our social circles never fit. Our stars never aligned.

My wanton proclivities have led me to believe the whole thing as unfortunate. College is one of the best times in our lives. We made the poorest of choices, but never with each other. The outcome would have been much less romantically favorable then. Though, I can’t be sure if it would’ve been less fun either.

As it happened, we both grew up to be the kind of snobs who swore off dating anyone from our hometown. Too familiar, we said. Too intertwined. We’ve lived and loved elsewhere since.

All the people I’ve gotten familiar with have had many virtues and have taken me to many highs and lows I have come to love, but they have never been you and they have never built me your brand of home.

I have walked through life with a practical disenchantment that so many have in this day and age toward love. God forbid I fell into its clutches once again, I prayed. I have avoided romance like a medieval plague. But, as with most beautiful things, this love story snuck up on me out of the ether like a not totally benign ghost.

As far as first dates go, ours was the best. I look back on that day with a smile on my face and a disbelief of how things changed my plans little by little, and then all at once. Humans are wired to bond. It was my folly to think I was the exception.

Love, man’s greatest drug and delusion. Love has left a few bodies in its wake. The great survivors will be the ones who never stop figuring it out. I hope we never get tired figuring it out.

It’s been an incredible year. We aren’t perfect, but we try. You are the lighthouse that brings me closer to shore each day; the horizon amidst the chaotic sea. You have grown into a man who’s just the right size and shape to fit into the cracks of the armor that’s kept me truly safe from a world in turmoil. In return, I can only hope to love you a little better.

As I trace the arch of your back, I hope to one day be the reason you’ll stand a little straighter, taller, lighter. I cannot be sure how long life will keep us together, but I do know that our possibilities are greater than the uncertainties. I have walked this earth for almost three decades. I have walked it with you for only a year, but you have made all the difference. How you did it still baffles me to this day. Never stop.

I’ll love you always. Happy June 1st.