Have you ever been with someone you can never “be with?” A friendship that you know has much more to offer but also too much to lose?

Crap, it’s that cheesy rom-com cliché from Christmas 2008. My Jai has fallen for an Aditi. And I’m mulling about whether we should have that “talk” when we get on a Zoom call tonight.

Maybe they’ll explain that they don’t see me that way and this would complicate things. Heck, maybe they’ll point out how we’re from different backgrounds, countries, jobs, and religions – and I’ll clarify that it’s these differences I love the most. It’s starting to feel like a Toastmaster’s debate.

If I must be both realistic and happy, I’m hoping they’ll smile, appreciate me for sharing my feelings, and promise to help me get over it eventually. Such mature discussion. Much wow.

Scenarios. Scenarios. Scenarios. As I’m slinging through the multiverse created by my anxiety-ridden, 23-year-old brain, I have to say there’s something different about this person that’s keeping me awake. There has to be.

Because I thought I left behind this topic in my emo teen phase. With poems that I took the effort to rhyme lmaoooo. But it’s almost after an entire decade that I’m finding myself chirping down this path again. Spring in my step and all. So the writer in me is definitely curious.

See, first of all, there wasn’t a love-at-first-sight moment. It wasn’t full of butterflies and crazy adventures. In fact, I can’t pinpoint a specific day when I understood that I wanted more. There weren’t any explosive fireworks. The hunch grew more like five sips of chai. Normal, comforting, simple. Like how you move into a new house and then it eventually becomes your home for no good reason. And you get into a cozy routine.

I have spent so much time in their company doing jackshit. One day we camped in our university’s library. On our own laptops doing our own assignments. When the guards told us it was time to leave, we walked out talking about how well-spent the day was and that we should definitely do it again.

It’s not like we haven’t had fun together. We’ve hung out, and flown to new cities. We’ve eaten with forks at fancy brunches and also ravaged through banana leaf buffets like Savannah lions.

We’ve also had the craziest of talks. From junk gossip to deep philosophical musings at 3AM. They once looked down at the dimly lit highway and told me how every passing car must have people with complex lives and stories that we’ll never hear. Trippy? Well, you should see our chats, you’d think we’re in the stratosphere.

But floating in between all that noise are many blank pages that weigh just as much. Silences I never felt obligated to fill. Sometimes, we just lie around and chill.

Which tells me that this new kind of love I’m discovering … this love isn’t all shiny and glamorous. After all that excitement fades away, there’s a cozy blanket of silence that takes over. You don’t have to go on extravagant holidays to relax. You don’t have to buy each other costly gifts to feel special. You don’t have to upload Stories of everything you do together. There’s nothing to prove to the world, nothing to show off.

Love is breathing. It’s in simple gestures. They’re both noticed and reciprocated. The person’s company is more than enough. And you no longer have to do only wild things to feel like you had a good time.

If you can feel happy cutting a cupcake in the dark and call it a party, when its not even your birthday, that’s when you realize they’re the one.

Mind you, even if there’s comfort, there’s also discomfort. I like that we call each other out on our bullshit. They don’t just pretend to agree with all my decisions or opinions because I’m their best friend. In fact, there are so many things we do openly disagree on and also furiously debate about.

We also hold each other accountable for our mistakes. I have a loud mouth and when I leak something in a public conversation that I shouldn’t have, they will remind me that I can do better.

This could’ve been a toxic or abusive thing where we’re constantly pushing each other’s buttons. But its not the case because toxic relationships rely on fear. The fear of causing damage. When we discuss our issues, we’re not afraid of permanently ruining or breaking things.

We understand that we cannot really always like each other. Sometimes, I will hate them. And I’ll say it. They’ll say they hate me even more. Sometimes I’ll be so pissed off at something silly they did. But I won’t feel bad or guilty about it. We respect these negative emotions and agree that we can be imperfect and kinda off on some days. These fleeting currents and tiny problems don’t threaten our bond. I speak for both of us when I say we have this unbreakable faith that we’ll always be able to ‘work it out together.’

When you call someone your ‘loved one,’ it means they’re signing up for the whole package. Which occasionally includes confusion, misunderstandings, disappointment, and hurt. Love is communication. Communication of all those emotions.

If you can openly talk about all your thoughts and problems without having to worry about losing them, that’s when you realize they’re the one.

But all that said, I think the most special thing about this special person is how they make me want to be better without ever having to push me ahead.

What I mean is that they’re a forever fan. At gatherings, they’ll take me around like I’m Barack Obama and introduce me to all their friends, raving about the ‘cool projects’ I’m working on this year. They’re my biggest cheerleader, hyper-supporter, and meme-liker to the point of cringe. When I’m down and sobbing about how I suck, they’ll tell me to shut up and refuse to believe that I’m anything less than the best.

I feel immensely relaxed knowing that I’ll always be good enough for them, even when I’m not good enough for myself. See, it’s not a conditional contract. There’s this underlying assurance that they’ll be cheering me for me even when I’m behind, even when I finish last. I don’t have to constantly worry about proving myself to them or living up to their ‘expectations.’

A relationship of any kind and degree shouldn’t feel constantly challenging, uncomfortable, and stressful. That kind of bullshit is often sold under the guise of tough love or training. But you shouldn’t feel like you’re dragging yourself to please or impress the person.

Because love is safety. It’s like a soft sandpit in which we can become kids again and build whatever the fuck we want to. And when we have no power left, it’s a force that burns through every fiber of our soul and gives us that last bit of fire to hold on to. “Hold on,” it says, “We’re almost there.”

This safe zone my special person has created without even realizing it … it just makes me want to push myself every day. Their fierce belief in me makes me want to fight, even when I don’t want to do it for myself. In fact, it was this person who once told me that we can’t always love ourselves and that’s why we need friends who can remind us of how worthy we are.

If they make you feel empowered to chase your dreams fearlessly, you know they’re the one.

Now that I’ve said these things out loud, I guess I know that they’re really the one.

But I don’t feel prepared to tell them yet so I’m going to wait for some more time. I’m not rushing into things. It’s perfectly acceptable. And anyway, I’m not worried about being too late. I won’t regret not telling them right away.

You know how I’m so sure? Because love is, above all, friendship. And I have it right here, right now.

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