Do you know how it feels to love someone? To be completely naked, vulnerable, saying “here is my heart, please don’t break it”. Love is a beautiful thing but to be in love that is special. Being in love changes you. It can make you weak; it can break you, or make you stronger. I remember the first time I knew I was in love.
I never believed in love as a child, it never existed. I grew up in a house with a constant waft of alcohol, a faint burn in everyone’s nostrils. At the same time, I could never tell whether I lived in a bottle of Jack or a carton of Newport’s. The nicotine stained the walls yellow and brown. I would carve smiley faces in the compacted layers of nicotine and ash. My parents were divorced and addicted to their own vices. The closest thing to love I knew was the back of a hand or the crack of a belt. I started working when I was just twelve years old. I cut grass for a development company for five dollars an hour. I succumbed to the working man’s lifestyle. I spent my days trading time for some dollars. I gave up so much time and energy, I stopped seeing my friends. After work and school, all I had left was my favorite book, the Collection Poems of Robert Frost. Eventually, life skipped forward to high school. I was lost and confused, just trying to get by. I kept coasting through, until one fated day. It was the day she found me. She was more beautiful than the California sunrise. She showed me that in my life there were still reasons to live. And yet, I was still scared of this word called love. I had heard that word thrown around so much and yet, I had never held it in my own hands. When I stopped running towards my books and started looking for her was the day. I knew I was in love. I felt the tremble through my spine, I did not know if my foundation would hold. I felt my heart want to jump from my chest to hers. I had to tell her.
It was a cold Thursday morning; mouth chattering, bone aching cold. I felt the wind slowly swallowing the moisture from my skin. I was going to tell her today. I had to tell her how I felt. I was so nervous. All I could do was pick up a pen and start writing. “I wanna write you a love poem.” Suddenly two loud thumps came over the intercom. “Excuse me don’t forget to audition today for tomorrow’s talent show.” I hunched back over my desk to get back to writing. I did not want anyone to see me writing a poem. If it was not a rap, then it was not cool. The words talent show started haunting me. They were playing on a loop in my head the entire morning. I thought maybe I could perform my poem and dedicate it to her. I had to finish it in order to audition, and lunch was coming up. I did not even bother; I skipped my favorite part of the day. The clock was ticking. I sat down in a corner of the cafeteria. I stared into the summer old shriveled cucumber that infused with the table. I took a breath and opened my journal and took my grandfather’s pen. The second the tip touched the paper the flood gates opened. The ink ran from the pen like it found a new home. This was a feeling I had never felt before.
At the end of a foodless lunch break, my stomach growled and my fingers ached. I did it, I wrote her a love poem. The words described how she made my heart want to jump out of my chest, and how each time she said my name, my world stopped spinning. When she speaks, even my demons stop to listen. Each precious time we touch, I feel God’s presence, as if she is holy. I finished the poem, looked at my watch, and started sweating all over again. I was ten minutes late to my next class.
I walked into the classroom and our eyes met, she was sitting in the front of the class, looking right back at me. She smiled at me. My bliss was interrupted when the teacher yelled “You’re late Mr. Cruz, you can make that time up with me after class.” I softly spoke “I can’t sir.”
“Why not? You don’t have anything better to do.” Mr. Edwards snarled.
“I’m going to audition for the talent show.” As soon as those words came out, I felt it. I felt everyone’s eyes peel me apart thinking what talent I could possibly have. I took my seat and started proofreading my poem. I had to stay 10 minutes after class. I sprinted down the halls all the way to the music room. She was standing up, singing in front of everyone. Bruno mars never sounded any better. Her applause was thunderous, booming echoing against the walls. When it was my turn to audition everyone gave me a blank stare. I spoke into the microphone and whispered, “I wrote a poem for a girl today.” That was all I could get out before the desert took my tongue. I inhaled as if it was my last breath. I could feel my heart beat getting stronger and louder with each beat. Everything intensifying, I forced myself to do it. I performed my poem. When I was finished, it was silent. No words, no breaths, just stares. Even the mice became quiet. The deadly cold winds outside the window halted. My heart took a nose-dive into my stomach. I felt the acids start to burn, my heart sacrificed in an audition. As soon as I turned from the microphone, everyone stood up, clapping and whistling. This was just the audition, but it felt like it was the X Factor. She looked at me, smiled and walked away. My heart trembled.
The next day a couple of teachers stopped me and whispered “Good luck today! We heard you can write, let’s see it!” When the announcer ushered me on stage, I knew this was it. This was my moment. I felt the blood pumping, my heart racing, adrenaline flowing. I slowly took a first step, my feet concrete slabs, my body shaking. My fingers twitched, scared as if the words they created wouldn’t be accepted. Every ounce of my resolve was now being called upon. I walked onto the stage and was welcomed with thunderous applause. A boy with no friends was being welcomed by a full school. I started reading. Suddenly, I felt the power in my voice. All of my nerves and worries subsided. I felt like a king. I recalled the same feelings as the first day my mom bought me poetry books. It felt like the day I realized I had reasons to live. This was it. This was what I loved. I lived for this. I fell in love. This was love. I found love gleaming off the reflection of the ink.
It has been six years since that day. I still write and perform in schools and cafes. I let the ink bleed into the paper leaving its trail. I release my feelings in tsunamis and whirlpools of words. I became a man through heartbreak and death. Being in love changes you. It can make you weak; it can break you, or make you stronger. I was in love once, and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It made me realize that I had to live. I had to chase my dreams, to create and follow your own path. I love writing poetry. I am in love with poetry. Writing saved my life.