We were sitting on an outdoor bench in the middle of Pleasure Island in Florida. Humidity licked at our foreheads and exposed arms. My bare shoulders felt cool against the thick air. We were waiting for the rest of his family to find us, killing time by critiquing passers-by and their wardrobe choices. "I love you" had not yet been spoken, though I was sure it was forthcoming. Every remotely romantic occasion that presented itself provided an opportunity to say the words, in my mind at least. We gave up making fun of poorly dressed tourists and took to chatting with one another about nothing in particular. I looked him in the eyes, staring into his hazel colored irises, sure that the moment we were sharing was romantic enough to say those three little words. Say it, I willed, looking into his eyes. Just say it.
"Stop looking for it," he said softly, staring back at me.
His question caught me off guard. I broke from his gaze and looked off past him, tucked my hair behind my ear in a self-concious move and shrugged my shoulders with a laugh. "Me? What? What do you mean, 'stop looking for it?'"
"You know." His smile was soft, sweet, but his eyes were investigating me.
"No, I don't, Billy. What do you mean?"
He was quiet for a minute and forced me to look at him. "You know. Just stop." His tone was reassuring, but I didn't know what he meant.
I hounded him for hours to tell me what he'd meant. "Nothing. God. I just said it," he'd reply definsively. I made up my mind to believe that he meant that I needn't gaze into his eyes and beg him to tell me that he loved me; that he did, and I don't have to search for it.
I had forgotten about that moment until Sunday. Sprawled out on top of his bedsheets and trying to figure out which movie we wanted to select from his waiting arsenal, we shared a sweet little moment. I'd missed him so much that I couldn't stop looking at him, tracing his face with my vision, memorizing the curve of his cheek and the slope of his nose. He caught me staring and our eyes locked. We sat, unmoving, for minutes, a faint smile hiding in the corners of each of our mouths.
And, again, he said it. Soft and sweet, with his hand on my face: "Stop looking for it."
"For what?" I plead. "You told me in Florida that you didn't mean anything by that. And, obviously, you did because you've said it again."
He refused to give me an explaination, laughing as he curled up into my collarbone.
"Billy," I persisted, "tell me."
We've come a long way since our vacation to Florida, and I was fairly certain that it was safe to tell me what he'd meant months ago, and now again. I kept badgering until he relented, sighing into my bare skin.
He told me that, when I look at him like that, it seems like I'm looking for something I think he's hiding; like I don't trust him, or believe what he says to me, and I'm looking for the true him, the one that will hurt me. He said it seems like I'm waiting for him to say "Fooled ya;" To stop looking for that.
My lip quivered with the threat of tears. I couldn't believe that he'd seen that in me. I silently thanked God that his face was beneath my own, that he couldn't see my moist eyes.
"Am I right?"
I hesitated, waiting for the quivering in my voice to subside. I answered carefully, measuring my words and cautious of the slightest shake. "Well...sort of. But it doesn't have the negative spin that you put on it."
"I didn't say it was negative."
Tears slipped from my eyes. Who notices that sort of thing? Who cares enough to see that I'm scared, to know that I want it to last but terrified that it won't, to see the fear in me that it is, after all, too good to be true.
"It's not that I'm looking for proof that you're not truthful, I'm looking for the...for...reassurance, I guess. That it is true. God, no one has ever been so god to me."
"But, baby, you deserve to be treated well," he said, like it was a fact, not just his opinion.
"I guess I just kind of feel like it's...you're...too good to be true. And, yeah, I guess I am sort of waiting for the gotcha!"
And it's true. I can't quite believe that it's real. That I've actually found someone who always wants to see me, who takes the time to tell me thank you for putting dishes in the washer and who thinks to tell me, for no reason at all, that he thinks I'm beautiful. I can't really believe that I've found someone who will drive twenty minutes out of his way and into the middle of nowhere to visit me on his day off at my new job, just to bring me coffee and see my new space. I can't believe that I've found a man who listens to me when I'm confused about work and life and love, who doesn't make me feel like I'm whining or wasting his time. I can't believe that I've found a man who is all I've ever wanted and more.
He keeps telling me to stop looking for the catch, but I don't know when that'll happen. I don't know when the awe will finally wear off and I'll understand that he's not too good to be true; that he is true, he is real, and he's mine.