Above the noise of fifteen other conversations taking place in my vicinity, I hear a familiar voice say, “I don’t believe people in high school can be in love.” I look at my friend, but I can’t verbalize a response. Above all, I am angry. I expect adults to say that I am too young to feel something as complex as love, but for someone my own age, he should know that as seniors in high school, we are not the naïve children we once were.
I knew I was in love with Dave by the third month of our relationship. I remember I was afraid to kiss him in public, but one morning, at the last second before the bell rang, I turned to Dave and kissed him. All I could feel was Dave exhale for the brief second when our lips touched. I can only describe the feeling as a jubilant whelming, bubbling from my stomach to my head. As the morning bell rang, a steady stream of students flooded around us hurrying to their first block classes. We were a rock, a steady stone the salmon had to swim around to reach the pond at the end of a stream. It was then I knew I was in love, the one second when the vanilla cream colored cement bricks and scuffed linoleum floors left my peripherals, when I closed my eyes and felt overwhelmed by the serenity of the moment.
How could I not believe in something that powerful? When my cat died, Dave came to my house to bury him in my backyard. The oak roots and stones in the soil gave his hands three blisters, but he never stopped digging. He was there for my family when we needed him. He was there when I needed him. That has to be love. And how could I believe in anything else, anything but the emotion that compelled Dave to continue etching a hole beneath the roots in my yard even when his hands left bloody imprints on the shovel’s wooden handle.
So I yell back at my friend, “Just because Dave and I don’t argue over the monthly mortgage bill and we don’t live together does not mean we are not in love.” My relationship with Dave has changed my definition of love, but my belief in it has never wavered. I have never doubted the existence of love. It is a feeling, an emotion that overcomes you when you are with the person you love. After three years, I still wait all week to rest my head in the cradle made by the joining of his neck and shoulder. I know that relationships in high school don’t face the challenges that adult couples do, but that doesn’t make my feelings and emotions disappear. That doesn’t make love disappear.