Love Letter Story
I remember the first time I saw you, walking into senior English a new student, and I remember how it changed everything. I remember the first time I saw your hazel eyes and your warm smile and I knew that I could love you. I had never seen such love in somebody. And for some reason you chose to aim your smile at me. I remember what it meant to me to not spend my lunches alone in the corner, but instead to have your loving smile by my side. And your beautiful eyes. You could have been friends with anyone, but you spent your time with me and became my friend. My first friend.
I remember when you asked me out and how I tried to hide my elation. I remember how you took me to No Country for Old Men because you had heard it was by the Coen brothers, and you new I loved the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou. I remember after, when you drove me home, how I called you an idiot and told you I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I remember how you made everything by grabbing my hand outside my house and kissing me for the first time. You stayed the night and held me in your arms all night to make sure I would sleep. I remember that I had never felt complete until that night.
I remember the first time I got called a faggot. A jock passing by in the cafeteria looked at us sitting at our table and reminded me why I always ate alone in the corner, invisible. With you, I felt like I was putting myself on mountain for all to see. When you saw me lower my head you grabbed my hand under the table, looked at me with those loving, hazel eyes, and said “Trust in who you are. You are stronger than you think.” It was something so simple, but everything I needed to hear in that moment. Everybody else disappeared when I was holding your hand, and it was just you and me on top of our mountain. That was when I knew I loved you.
I remember sitting with you and my parents and telling them about us. I would never have been able to be who I was without your encouragement and my parents would never have gotten their second son. I remember pretending to change my college decision due to academics because I didn’t want to admit that I was changing colleges for a high school relationship. I remember growing, learning, and being with you for those years of freedom. I remember graduating and having the whole world in front of us, just you and me, with endless possibilities. I remember how excited I was to be able to start a life with you.
I remember how quickly the cancer came. I remember how it turned your strong body into a shadow of itself connected to IVs and machines. But I remember how your eyes stayed the same, full of love and color. I remember being told to leave you and wait in the waiting room for most of the day because I wasn’t family. I remember being trapped in the waiting room while my partner fought for his life because they said I wasn’t family. I remember Fox news playing in the waiting room one day praising people working to keep me in this room and saying they were fighting the good fight. I remember tearing that waiting room and all its fake plants to pieces.
I remember the look you gave me the next time I was able to see you. You grabbed my hand and looked up at with your ever-loving eyes and said, “You cannot fight fierce and determined as a bull. You must be the matador, calm and calculated. Anger cannot defeat anger. Hate cannot defeat hate.” I couldn’t believe those words could come out of the mouth of a man who had never been given anything he deserved. I tried to tell you that they had no right to project their beliefs on us and that it was none of their business. You told me, “We must respect their beliefs. Projecting of one’s beliefs on another is the price of democracy. Nearly half of the people will always disagree. But history tells us that with enough time, people move towards what is right.”
I remember how the news felt when the people of South Carolina allowed us to be together. You could barely smile in our hospital wedding, but you didn’t need to. It was all in your eyes. They seemed unaware of the machines and their dying body and only poured out their happiness and love.
I remember what it was like to sleep next to you and watch your body be ravaged by the cancer. I remember crying, saying it was too soon. You mustered a smile and looked towards your wedding band and said “Well, not too soon.”
I remember how alone I felt when your eyes lost their color and the love was replaced with emptiness.
I looked up from my letter. I couldn’t read through my tears anymore. I folded the letter back up and placed it back in its envelope. “I miss you, James. I… I’m sorry I haven’t visited. I just haven’t been able to. My parents had to carry out your will. But you probably saw that coming.” I tried to let out a laugh between the tears.
I got on my knees and leaned the letter on his headstone and placed my hands the grave marker. The wet grass of the dark, overcast day seeped through my pants to my knees. I began to weep with my head down and moved my hands across the granite, my wedding band rattled against it. I watched my tears fall to the grass below me. I let go of everything I had held in for the past few months. “I can’t do this without you, James. I need you. I can’t do this alone”
I looked up looking for an answer that I knew wouldn’t be there. I blinked my eyes clear and James had left the answer for me right in front of me. Under December 12, 2014 read:
“Trust in who you are. You are stronger than you think.”
more by KRAMER LINDELL
photograph by Tyler Pruitt