After he told me, for the first time, that he loved me, I kissed his mouth. My eyes were closed, the kiss was firm. I was smiling through it. I reared back to create just enough space for words to pass between us, and told him I loved him, too. He kissed me. My heart was beating so fast, I thought it may jump out of my chest. I took a deep breath and settled my head into the soft skin of his neck, between his shoulder and his sleepy face. “Like you didn’t know that already,” he said sweetly, kissing my forehead.
“I did,” was my response. And it’s true, I did.
Something about hearing him say it out loud was so satisfying...But at the same time, it seemed superfluous; actually speaking the words was just the icing on the cake. Because I did know, well before the words fell from his lips. And, surely, he knew that I loved him, too. I feel like we’ve been saying it for a while now without words. I know I have. When he sleeps on his side, his back turned to me and my body wrapped around his, I whisper it into his back. I mouth the words into his hair when he rests on my chest. And when he takes my face in his hands, kissing me and backing up enough to look into my eyes, I think it. Loud. I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you over and over, hoping he can read it in my irises. Or my mind shouts I love you, too because I see what I think is I love you in his eyes.
I’ve always been the kind who needed to hear “I love you.” My family says it to one another all the time: Each time we part ways, at the end of each phone conversation. We type it into our emails, we sign it on cards. There’s never a fear that the last thing I say to one of my family members won’t be “I love you.” Maybe that’s what makes me want to hear it all the time from significant others. I’ve never been content to look at actions, to pick up clues along the way and let them lead me to the conclusion that I’m loved. I’ve always craved the sound of “I love you” falling on my ears, the feel of the words as they slid from my mouth. But it was proof I was seeking to find and give. And the proof, for me, was never in the actions. Only in the words.
But the words are woven into Billy’s every kind gesture. They are sewn into the fabric of each tie I’ve purchased for him. They are in the silver of the earrings and the wool of the coat he bought for me, for no reason at all. There were in the humid air of our vacation together. They are in his hands on my skin, my lips on his face. They are the chimes of my ringing phone, in his voice on the other end of the line. They are in the spaces between every word I’ve written about him. They are behind every action, every kiss.
With Billy, I just know. It doesn’t have to be shouted from the rooftops. He doesn’t have to hire a skywriter to spell it out in clouds of exhaust. He doesn’t even have to say it all the time. It’s there, just beneath the surface, in the curve of his smile, in the softness of his eyes, his gentle kiss. It’s nice to be able to say and hear it now…But it’s nicer still to know I don’t have to.