Love Him Exactly The Way He Is

She stood quietly on the front porch with a cup of coffee in her hands, watching him leave for work, just as she had done on so many mornings before. She smiled when she realized how the years had passed and how he had aged. While she stood watching him, she suddenly remembered the man he was when she first met him. She was instantly overcome by an urge to call him back, and tell him that if she could go back to the day they had first met, she would tell him that he never needed to change and that she wished he had stayed exactly the same. Instead, she sat down on an empty chair on her front porch and watched him climb into his car. She thought back to a time when life had not yet begun to dictate its rules and enforce acceptable conduct upon them.

They were once so young, carefree and wonderfully reckless. She smiled again, when she evoked the beginning of their relationship, and that even though they had lived in separate cities, he would make that long trip every Friday without fail, just to see her. Back then, she never quite understood the sacrifices he had made just to spend a short weekend with her. She suddenly wishes she did. She thought back to the day that his motorcycle broke down on his way to see her, and that he had walked almost a hundred miles in the rain just to reach her. She never really understood how far that was then, or for how long he had walked. They had fun, they laughed, they teased, they danced, they talked, they loved, and they were happy. Blissfully happy with not a care in the world. She loved everything about him. She loved the way excitement would change his voice and she adored his bashful giggle that would appear from time to time. It was easy to miss, but hard to ignore. She loved how the little things were so significant to him and how the silliest story would make him laugh from the pit of his stomach. She loved how he would repeat something on television they had both just watched moments before, because he was afraid that she would miss a chance to laugh. They didn’t care much about uncapped toothpaste or wet bathroom towels on the floor. They didn’t care much for an empty laundry basket or a dozen outfits that lay scattered on the bed. They didn’t care much for shoes on the ground or socks next to the laundry basket. They were happy. They were young. They were too busy loving one another.

Then slowly and without intending to, it all changed. Without noticing it, she changed. And without meaning to, she tried to change him. They began to set goals and they began to carve out their future and build their home. The sooner they had reached their initial goals, the more goals they would set and the harder they would work. Their hours apart became longer, and their focus began to change from “them” to “things.” They had begun to accidentally embark upon a life outside of their “us.” The laundry baskets were empty, the dishes were washed and packed away. Clothes were neatly hung, and shoes were artfully arranged in closets. She began to harass him about the little things, the little irritations and when they turned into the big things, he stopped laughing from his gut. She began to yell, rather than to speak. He would turn away from her, rather than to protest. The flowers he brought her were no longer as beautiful as before. It was only when he stopped bringing them that she realized how she had stolen his willingness to bring beauty into her life. She had stolen his joy. She had stolen his enthusiasm to make her laugh and see her happy. She had taken his freedom away by berating him for his little mistakes. For the little things she wished he had done better. Like, putting the cap back on the toothpaste and tossing his dirty clothes into the laundry basket. Like, rinsing the bath afterwards and placing his coffee mug in the dishwasher. She had stolen his ability to love her, and she had stolen his right to defend himself against her. She had silenced him when they would watch a movie, and she hated that he would repeat something they had both just watched. She would be angry with him for waking her up during the night because he was too close to her … smothering her. She wanted a night of uninterrupted sleep.

When all their goals were reached, when he had finally given her all that she had ever wanted, she was frightened to realize that she was not happy. He was no longer happy. She could not quite remember when it was that he had lost his spark. She could not quite remember when last it was that she had heard him laugh, truly laugh from deep within him. When was it that he last held her hand in his? What happened to their kitchen dances? She could not remember when the last time was that she truly looked at him just as she did when they had first met.

They had created a picture-perfect world and they had turned into almost perfect people. But, somewhere along the way, they had lost one another. As she sat on that front porch with an empty cup of coffee in her hands, she realized that she had never felt more alone in her entire life, than at that very moment. She missed him, the man he was when they had first met. The untidy, carefree and happy man. The man that would make her laugh just because he wanted to hear her giggle. The spontaneous man who would pull her back onto their bed and mess up her hair. She missed the “she” that would let him kiss off her lipstick even though she was five minutes late for work. She missed the man that would take the serving spoon from her hand, and dance around the kitchen with her. Because he could and because, they could. Because she let him. Because, their “we” was once the most important thing in the world. She missed the laundry on the floor. She missed the grease-soiled overalls he would soak in the outdoor basin, just because he did not want her hands dirty. She missed falling over his shoes in the middle of the night, and more than anything, she longed to hear his shy giggle again. She missed waking up in the mornings with his arm around her. She missed him, the man he was when they first met.

She lowered her head, profoundly mortified by the woman she had turned into. She was sad that she had changed so enormously, and she was deeply remorseful that she had unintentionally changed him too. Magnitude was always in the little things, and it was in those things that they were happy, the things she wished they still had. She shook her head when she realized that he must have felt like a prisoner in his own home.

When she heard him start his car, she ran down their pathway, frantic to reach him before he disappeared down the street. He climbed out the car, a stranger to the untaught expression on her face. She grabbed his hands and squeezed them firmly. She told him to leave off the toothpaste cap, it was just a cap, and that the next person could screw it back on, if they wanted to. She asked him to leave his laundry on the floor, it wouldn’t be so bad for her to pick it up on her way to the washer. It was, after all, on her way. She said that it was all right to leave his shoes next to the bed, it would be easier for him to find the next morning. She begged him to kiss her again just after she applied her make up, and she reminded him to pull her down on the bed only moments after she had brushed her hair. She told him that she didn’t want perfect anymore, and she no longer wanted things. She said that she understood it was never what mattered, and that she just wished she knew it sooner. She whispered softly that they get up in the middle of the night and have ice-cream on their bed, just like they used to. She wanted to watch that movie that would make him laugh with him, just so that she could pretend it was funny and laugh out loud with him. She pleaded with him to take the day off as they headed out in his car, and drive around aimlessly for the day, leaving their phones at home. Faintly, she whispered for him to lie closer to her at night, she didn’t really need that much sleep.

He had always been perfect … for her. Life had no right to change them, and they no longer had to feel as though they needed to adapt. They should never have conformed to what they thought life was supposed to be to begin with. When he was himself, he was already the very best version he could ever be. That was the version she loved. That is the version she loves now. That will be the version she will always love.

She loves him exactly the way he is.

With love,

Alice VL

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