My boyfriend and I were just finishing our first full day of our week-long vacation in Maine. I had been there since Friday evening for a weekend with friends; he arrived Sunday night, after most of those friends had gone back home. The two of us along with our remaining friends spent the day exploring the beach, playing mini-golf, and laughing over board games.
As the sun began to set and our collective energy levels dwindled, we all retreated into the den for some drinks and a “Freaks and Geeks” marathon. Halfway through the second episode, I typed a message onto my phone and quietly showed it to him.
“Let’s sit outside later,” it said.
It was nearly eleven o’clock and in about an hour, we would have been officially dating for one year. Our relationship had always moved at a very deliberate pace, and in keeping with that behavior, the word “love” had yet to surface.
Not that I didn’t love him — I’d known for several months that I did. I was just hesitant to say anything for fear that the feeling would not be immediately returned. Between the two of us, I had less experience with long-term relationships and did not want to make any rookie mistakes.
I had planned on telling him the following night, during our anniversary dinner or maybe afterwards. I had a speech prepared, one that I had run through repeatedly in my mind in the weeks leading up to our vacation: I would tell him that I loved him; that it was important for him to know that; that I understood if he wasn’t ready to reciprocate; that there are many legitimate reasons for him to not return the feeling; that nothing would change even if he wasn’t at that level yet. I even envisioned this conversation taking place as we finished our meal, so that if the feeling was not mutual, it would not put a damper on our dinner.
I knew at the time how unnecessary my worrying was, but I also knew how much he meant to me and I didn’t want my own enthusiasm to become a distraction. I really did want him to reciprocate but I didn’t want him to be pressured into it.
After the third “Freaks and Geeks” episode, our friends made their way to their beds, and my boyfriend and I made our way to the backyard, equipped with the remainder of our wine. It was a cloudless night and the air was cool enough that condensation had accumulated on the patio bench. We covered the bench with a beach towel and sat on it, gazing out at the moon’s reflection in Casco Bay.
We were discussing nothing in particular when I looked down and noticed his leg shaking. I found this odd, as I was in shorts and a t-shirt and felt completely comfortable. I suggested we return to the house and finish our drinks inside. He said he was fine and that we should remain outside a while longer. We returned to our conversation. Before long, his leg started to shake again.
“Come on,” I said, “You’re cold. Let’s go inside.”
“I’m not cold,” he replied. And then, with no apparent segue: “There is something that I’ve been wanting to tell you. And I don’t want you to think that you have to reciprocate…”
I couldn’t believe it! Not only was he beating me to the punch, he appeared to be plagiarizing my own internal monologue! My memory of what he said immediately after that is a bit hazy — perhaps because of the wine or perhaps because I was too wrapped up in the moment — but I do remember him concluding his remarks with “… and I love you.”
After he got it out, his leg stopped shaking.
Still in a state of shock, I told him what I’d planned – the dinner, my precisely timed speech, the assurances that reciprocation wasn’t necessary, the mentally enumerated reasons he might not say it back. I continued to ramble on until I realized that there was one more thing I had forgotten to say. I paused and looked at him.
“Of course I love you.” I kissed him.