He told me I have nice eyebrows. Eyebrows. Not you have beautiful eyes or I like your smile or I love your laugh or even damn girl your ass looks good in those jeans. Nope. Eyebrows. He likes my eyebrows. It is the most random complement I have ever received, but I don’t really care because I’m not interested anyway. I told him thank you, and let him know that I was with someone else… which in that moment, was no longer actually true, but I didn’t feel the need to explain that to him. Later while we were dancing, he asked me if my boyfriend would be jealous. I raised my eyebrows. Boyfriend? No te dije novio. Dije novi-a. I turned under his arm. ¿Eres bisexual? He asked. I nodded. We continued dancing. ¿Ella es bella? He wanted to know. Sí. I replied. He leaned in for a spot turn and with a flirtatious grin, asked ¿Más qué tú? I nodded emphatically. He raised his eyebrows in disbelief. ¿De verdad? I stopped dancing and looked him in the eyes: Yes, she really is.
But what I really wanted to tell him was that she made me nervous from the very first moment I saw her. Nervous in that way that fills your stomach with a strange fluttery feeling, and I knew even from across the room that I was in trouble. Then she smiled and I melted. It took me two weeks to even get up the courage to talk to her, and then magically one day, I got her phone number in an uncharacteristically sly and unassuming way, and she got mine, and we haven’t stopped talking since.
I wanted to tell him that loving her has made me a better person. I have been small and powerful, gigantic and fragile and everything in between. My heart has become a kinder, more inviting place. I have grown more patient. I have learned to give better hugs, to sit with terrible and watch it transform, and to not take so much so personally, especially when angry. I have learned to be vulnerable and let others bear witness to my own sadness. And to not always be so strong and solitary.
The way I interact and empathize with others has changed because of my interactions with her, and if I were to tell her all of this, she would brush it off, not acknowledge that she has been any sort of positive influence, and she would tell me I am prettier than her. But gifts don’t always know they are gifts. We can’t always see the light and warmth we emanate.
And as I was typing this I received a call, notifying me that my grandfather had passed away. I told my son what had happened, and he was thoughtful for a moment before he said earnestly: It is a good thing he died after Christmas. My maternal grandfather had passed away on Christmas day when I was a child, so I had to agree, but I was curious to hear his reasoning, so I asked him why, and he told me: Because that way he didn’t miss out on getting presents!
Presents. Presents are pretty important when you are five, so in his own five-year-old logic, my son was showing a great deal of empathy for his great-grandpa, but what it immediately made me think of is the way people talk about the present as a gift. I started thinking about presents and the present and this one brief and delicate life we are given. And I realized that the best way to celebrate the life of my grandfather is to live like every single day is Christmas. Like unless we live our life as if we are driving a stolen car we are not living it. Like being loved and loving others as often and as honestly as possible might be the best present we could ever hope to unwrap. Like no matter how it turns out, loving another person with your whole heart is never a mistake. Like being heartbroken is really just an opportunity for your heart to grow bigger.