I came to college already knowing you were funny, loving, a smooth talker, and an overall good guy from our conversations during the summer. It wasn’t until I met you in person under a tree at Stine Lake that I knew you were going to be one of the most special people in my life. I remember that day like it was yesterday: you were leaning, arms crossed over your chest, black sunglasses on, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, with that boyish grin I loved from the beginning. I never connected so much with someone so quickly. The year brought its expected ups and downs between us, but I always found myself going back to the one person who knew me better than anyone else in a matter of months. You helped me get through the baggage I brought to college from high school; you discovered my weaknesses, what made me tick, what my flaws were, and loved me all the same. I owe so much of my personal growth to you—how you slowly pulled me out of my shell, how you taught me that it was okay to express my opinions, how you exposed me to new things, and, most importantly, how you showed me your world.
This small town was a breath of fresh air compared to home, but you made it so much better. Taking me on car rides in the country to go to markets and farms and places from your childhood and Little Round Top, watching crime episodes in your room down the hall, making my family tree and giving me a better picture of where I came from, going to your lectures in town on local black history, and spending a weekend at the beach were just some of the many memories we shared together. You made the unfamiliarity of college not only easier, but comfortable, beyond bearable, and more like home than I’ve ever felt. And, through all of this, I’m spending a Tuesday night writing, openly and honestly and partially broken, to thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and for showing me every corner, every place that has made you who you are today. Your world is nothing short of beautiful, and I was happy to be a part of it for the time we had together.
They tell you that you don’t realize what you’ve lost until you’ve truly lost it. I don’t think I’ve ever understood what they meant until now. I haven’t had the best luck when it comes to relationships: cheated on, taken advantage of, emotionally abused, dragged along for his benefit, kept a secret. I didn’t know who I was back then, but I guess no one really does in high school. I knew what I had to offer; I knew what my values were; I knew what was right but I sacrificed it for what I thought was love. It wasn’t until I met you that I understood what love meant, how love was supposed to treat you, how a real relationship felt with a person who put you first before anything else. Even though stress and course work and life got in the way, I am able to walk away as someone who has grown so much from that first day at the tree, as a person with countless memories to hold onto, with images of you in the driver seat telling me stories of your life, with pictures from New Year’s Eve and the most perfect fireworks in town square.
I don’t know what the future holds but thank you for showing me your world. And, thank you for being a part of mine.
Photos by author