You ask me if I’ve known love, and what it’s like to sing songs in the rain? Well, I’ve seen love come; I’ve seen it shot down; I’ve seen it die in vain.” ~Bon Jovi

I was in third grade, and she was in fourth. It was Halloween, and we had just “officially” became a couple. We went to the carnival together, and then we went trick-or-treating together. I was dressed as Dracula, and she was dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein. We held hands and shared our candy with each other.

The next Summer we kissed for the first time. It was late afternoon, and we had been playing together outside all day long. It was almost time for me to go home, but she wanted to show me something first. I followed her into the tool shed behind her house, and she taught me how to kiss. There was a lot of kissing that Summer. It was a good year.

She moved away, and time passed. I moved away too, for a while, and then I moved back. Suddenly, I was high school, and love couldn’t be as simple as shared candy and stolen kisses…or could it?

We were on a school field trip. We weren’t dating, and we weren’t even friends. In fact we barely knew each other. People assumed we hated each other just because we were both shy and introverted, but honestly, we just never really spent any time together. I was walking alone late one night (as I am prone to do, even today) when I heard someone whisper/yell my name. I looked up, and she was sitting in a tree. I climbed the tree and joined her.

There was no kissing this time, but there was a very long, very deep conversation whispered in private. We bared our souls to each other in the arms of that tree, and shared an intimacy deeper than either of us could have imagined possible. We never spoke of it, but for the next two years of high school, we shared secret smiles and knowing glances. Life moved on.

We met at a concert in Atlanta. I was married with a young child. My marriage was falling apart, and everything I did to try and save it just made it worse. She was married with a young child, and her marriage was falling apart, too. We were both musicians. We both played guitar and wrote songs. She was famous, I was not. She was from Chicago, I was from some nothing town in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. We talked about all of this, and more. We cried. We kissed. We felt guilty. I went back home, and she went to the next city on her tour. We never saw each other again, but for one night, love was compassion, empathy, and consolation.

As I’ve gotten older, love has become more complicated, and relationships have become more difficult. That’s not unusual, I suppose. But there’s just so many rules now. Restrictions. Regulations. Guidelines. Don’t call too soon. Don’t wait too long before you call. Text. Don’t text. If you don’t “make your move” by the third date, she’ll assume you’re just not that into her. If you move too soon, she’ll think you’re only after one thing. Do this, but don’t do that. Go here, but don’t go there.

I just want to share my candy with someone who still wants to kiss me, even though we’re both gross and sweaty and yucky from playing outside all day. I want deep conversations that strip away our defenses and pretenses, and expose our deepest, truest selves. I want comfort, empathy, and compassion when life becomes intolerable.

Maybe that’s what everyone wants.

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