Writing about love is f*cking wild. Like, I’m wiggling out of my chair just writing this. I hate admitting that I carry all this heartache inside. And the thought of reliving everything I’ve experienced in the grip of love, sends my anxiety and self-loathing into overdrive. I’m 36 and still running around with novelas in my heart, heartbroken about not having a wife, and still not rooted in enough healthy love habits to even deserve her yet. I may need to text my therapist to get through this essay.
Damn, Bustle, you’ve got me ready to confess all my love sins, praying at my altar, asking, "Is this thing on?" And in love, just like in prayer, I feel like I’m forever winging it. From my first loves to the last ones still smoldering in the dust.
That hope tethers me to this earth. I just know, deep, deep in my heart that I must afford love the same unwavering belief.
When was the first time I fell in love? Can I even name the moment? Like, I can’t even name any ancestors beyond my grandmas. Knowing that gets me choked up but I still gotta reach for them, right? I have to believe I’ve got ancestors out there who haven’t forsaken me. I gotta believe that they never stopped protecting and guiding me.
That hope tethers me to this earth. I just know, deep, deep in my heart that I must afford love the same unwavering belief. And honesty. I must unfold my confessions and share them. A release. An offering. In effigy. First loves demand this level of ceremony.
My first love had dimples deeper than a Dixie cup getting filled with coco helado in the summer time. I was done. Who knew our love would flip fast from staring into each other eyes for days to almost a decade's worth of despair. That love swallowed our twenties whole and carved us up alive for the world to see.
This is where I breathe and remember that this love burned boundaries into my brain.
This was when I thought love was supposed to be us drunk, vomiting in the street, begging each other not to leave. Crying in each other’s arms the next morning, all those whispered promises to be better, all those bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich kisses to makeup.
Goddamn, we tried so hard.
This is where my legs and wrists start to shake and I gotta reach for my coffee 'cuz I don’t wanna have a panic attack reliving all that. This is where I breathe and remember that this love burned boundaries into my brain.
I thank the moon we didn’t annihilate each other. And I offer flowers to the sun for allowing us to live surrounded by new warmth.
The love after her was still a first.
This new love was a sestina. It was gentle affection in the form of bowties and brownies. And I fell thick hips first into her love like someone who never knew love could be soft. That it could be given freely and shared across continents in postcards and trips to Sevilla. No passing out or coming down from some bad sh*t. Just free-floating in soft makeouts and mountaintop crushes.
This love watched Chopped. This love taught me how to make pizza dough. This love had me two-stepping down the aisle in my daydreams and when this love crashed to a halt, when white privilege and mental health sh*t took us both out, I had nothing to soften the blow. I looked into my lungs and saw eight years of ash.
Proof that love could be fingers curled through your hair and not hands clapped in your face like a threat. Never again would I settle for love that wasn’t soft like naked Saturdays.
All over everything.
'Cuz I hadn’t taken the time to put myself back together. I’d hoped other peoples’ hands could do the work of rendering me whole. But what I had now, next to those boundaries I was still working on, was proof. Proof that love could be fingers curled through your hair and not hands clapped in your face like a threat. Never again would I settle for love that wasn’t soft like naked Saturdays.
So, when love number three blew right in after, I should have known better.
With curls like honey slipping from the comb, I was not ready. Her love was vibrant like hues of violet, fuchsia, and apricot jam. She painted portraits along my skin of what Black Indigenous POC love could be like, transcendent and miraculous. I was covered in her fingerprints, reborn.
Free verse. Rippling. Magnificent.
But I was in pieces, not fully formed, and even with all my apologies to her, I was still reeling from that first love abuse and the whiplash of soft love being ripped from my grasp. So when Lilith graced my earth, I wasn’t ready to ascend.
I crashed hard instead, all the way from grace.
Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.
She offered me space in her evolution and I ran backwards into myself.
Love dropped me naked on my knees. Begging all the unknown ancestral women who loved me into existence to wrench me from self-destruction. Praying for their guidance towards a solid path of internal reckoning and self-love. Love turned me right back around on myself, eye to eye under harsh lights, like look at yourself.
Look at yourself. What do you have to offer love?
This big love you want — this run-through-the-meadows-forever-birdies-chirping kind of love — if you want it, you must manifest it for your motherf*cking self.
What a lesson. In trying to dodge it, I cracked another set of ribs wide open, set someone else’s heart ablaze, poured rebound gasoline all over myself and burned.
I want to radiate solid, gentle honest love. And embody love that makes no demands and is clear in its needs.
I’m still burning.
I am my own offering.
My makeshift altar is built of tears, apologies, invoices approved and sent for emotional labor and race education, breakup Spotify playlists, and sweet p*ssy Saturday confessions.
Now I pray with intention. I close the door to my room. I dedicate intentional space for myself and my gods, my ancestors, my revelations.
I want to radiate solid, gentle honest love. And embody love that makes no demands and is clear in its needs. And I can’t do that if I keep crashing and burning into other people, acting like it’s my first time every time.
I know more now about what I need to do to manifest the love I want to be and share with others.
That grown up love, queer love, Puerto Rican dyke love, Bronx bomber love, my melanin to your melanin, no bullsh*t love, feminist love, anti-white supremacy love, fat belly love, f*ck me til I cry laughing love, all that good good love.
And from all those firsts, all the heartache, I’ve made a tiny list of what I need to keep from harming others while I raise myself up in love:
Be honest. Be gentle. Love yourself first. Honor BIWOC and femmes. Drop the machismo. Backhand the ego and build a true sense of self. Listen with your whole heart and when it’s you, say it’s you. Own all you do. Make amends.
Maybe that’s what falling in love for the first time is: Knowing that you are both utterly mortal and infinite like a god.
Learn when to step the whole f*ck away and focus on yourself.
And so, writing about love wasn’t so bad. It’s the vulnerability that’s terrifying. But there’s no other way to break through to the other side, the side where love is abundant and flowing from every pore, follicle, skin cell. I’m here looking at my heartache, all laid out in front of me, and I can begin to see beyond it. To the infinite space where I am my own savior and the love I seek is always and forever around me.
Maybe that’s what falling in love for the first time is: Knowing that you are both utterly mortal and infinite like a god. Maybe that first love should always be us diving gloriously into ourselves.
And hey, if my magnificent, self-loving, magic-manifesting future wife is out there and reading this, know that I’m doing my work. So that when the universe decides it’s time for us, I’ll be ready