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Angela's Journal, Vol. 8 [ - ]
by angie1379
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What fools we mortals be.

There is no metaphor, no analogy, no cliché that can describe my feelings tonight. My hopes soared and crashed and soared again, even as I so desperately struggled to make sense of how and why I made the choices I made. And struggle I did, as every moment of the day unfolded, bringing with it a profound vulnerability that I’ve spent the past seven years protecting myself from. In some ways, tonight brought together the best and the worst of those years, and even as I write this, I'm almost consumed by the sheer force of emotions that I never truly confronted. Joy, elation, euphoria, bliss – they all pale in comparison to what I feel right now. And even as I deal with the residual fear and frustration that eclipsed so much of the night, I know that at this moment, the air I breathe is less vital to my existence than the love I can finally embrace after all this time.

I took a chance tonight, a chance I had steadfastly avoided for the better part of seven years. I found myself facing a brick wall, unable to put into words everything I wanted Tony to know about how I felt about him. Today was an important day for us – it always is, every September. We’ve always marked our anniversary is some way, but after Washington, after this past summer, I knew something was different – and I wanted him to know it. But what to say? What not to say? In the end, there truly was no choice. So much had been said over the years and so many sentiments expressed, from friendship to gratitude, affection to excitement. And so much had not been said. Why did I choose today to invoke those long withheld words when so many opportunities have passed me by? When I walked into Feldman's, I had no idea the transformation I would undergo in less than twenty minutes. I did not plan this and was not expecting it, and yet there I stood, rejecting a dozen inscriptions and realizing for the first time that of all the appropriate words in the English language, there were only three that remained unsaid between us.

Tony knows that I care for him, appreciate him, admire him, am proud of him and am even attracted to him. He knows he can rely on me for anything, and that he's my family and my closest, dearest friend. He knows I think he's funny and smart. He knows he's my confidante, my advisor, partner, cheerleader, rock, and even sometimes my co-conspirator. He knows I value his advice and welcome his company, that I enjoy spending time with him more than anyone, and that he's one of the most important people in my life. He knows everything about me, from my fear of heights to my love of chocolate. He knows what color roses I like, what kind of wine I prefer, and how much butter to put on the popcorn. Over the years, in words, poetry, gifts, cards, and sometimes just through meeting each others' eyes across a room, I have told him how much I depend on him, appreciate him, like him, respect him, value him, and care for him.

But I never told him I love him.

As I agonized over what sentiment to permanently engrave on the back of a watch that I hope he has for years to come, I found myself incapable of pretending that there was any other way to express my feelings. It was all that remained unsaid between us. It was all that was unspoken, and in a moment of unguarded honesty, the truth came tumbling out – I didn't want it to remain unspoken any longer. It was time. After seven years, it was time to tell Tony my uncensored feelings.

So why now? That’s a very good question. There is no empirical reason that made today better than any of the dozens of opportunities over the years. Why did I hold back the first time I admitted the feelings to myself, when a woman named Frankie unwittingly forced me to confront what was in my heart? Why did I hold back in agonizing humiliation when I spoke the words in my sleep on my birthday? Why did I hold back in Jamaica, or at the Starlight, or even years before that when Tony mumbled the words in the hospital. Why not all those times? Why not a few short months ago in Washington? Why not over one of the many quiet dinners we’ve shared, or on Christmas Eve, or his birthday, or when we took Billy back to Brooklyn, or when he got into Ridgemont, or when we were “married” in St. Louis or “divorced” in South Carolina? Why now?

The truth is, we had a million excuses over the years, and I'm sure I could enumerate them all if I wanted to revisit my thoughts and feelings recorded in these very pages. We were too different, he worked for me, he was from Brooklyn, I was too insecure, he was too extroverted, the kids would suffer, it wasn't worth the risk.

But we were just scared. We were scared of taking a chance. And to some degree, I think Tony still is. And maybe I am, too.

Tonight was not easy on him. I can say that now with a measure of sympathy that was no match for the anger and indignation that plagued me from the moment I opened those seat covers. My own doubts and fears were so very acute and were further aggravated by the scenario I constructed in my head that put Tony and I on similar paths with similar expectations. The pieces suddenly fell into place for me; the signs were obvious. There have been so many changes in the past year, changes that came at a painful cost. And so I knew it was time. I said to Mr. Feldman, almost rhetorically, that Tony and I knew how we felt about each other, even if it wasn't spoken. But the instant the words were out of my mouth, I realized that I had thought that once before. I took our relationship for granted before and assumed we were both in the same place. But I was wrong, and the consequence was almost unbearable. What if I were wrong again? What if Tony didn't know how I felt? What if telling him I liked him wasn't enough?

Yes, I like him, but that hasn't been the sum total of my feelings in years. I love him, more than I think I ever fully acknowledged. And suddenly it occurred to me that withholding that love could prove more detrimental to our relationship than I ever feared admitting it would. Last year, I noted the irony in the fact that the very actions I took to preserve our relationship ended up posing the greatest threat to it. Not again.

When we got back from the city this afternoon, my heart was filled with anticipation – and not a little apprehension. To sustain the courage it was going to take to give Tony the watch, I convinced myself that he might even be thinking along the same lines. I mean, hadn't we shared an amazing summer full of quiet nights and romantic dinners. Hadn't we talked about what would happen when he graduated from Ridgemont in the spring? Didn't I kiss him spontaneously and without reservation just last week when he surprised me with walnut brownies? In other words, haven't we both made it perfectly clear that we're somewhat of a couple? But the truth is, we haven't, at least not to each other. Despite everything, our feelings and intentions have remained unspoken. We've never said we're together, or we're dating, or anything else that definitively redefines the familiar lines of our relationship, for reasons that probably have as much to do with habit as with some archaic sense of preservation.

But not anymore.

I will own that I gave Tony as little direction about this evening as he gave me. I did not imply I wanted a romantic dinner, nor did I offer any suggestions on what we should do. He did not know about the revelation I had standing in that watch shop today. And in fact, if I had not made the decision I did in Feldman's, I very well may have been happy with at the idea of the carnival. There was a certain nostalgic romance to it, and it could have been a perfectly enjoyable anniversary. If my resentment originated anywhere, it was in realizing that Tony was perfectly content allowing yet another milestone to pass us by without initiating even a minute change in our relationship. Throughout the night, I could feel that watch in my purse like a hot coal, practically scorching a path to my heart, and all the while, Tony was as carefree and jovial as the carnies hawking their wares on the midway. I wanted him to understand, to see the situation as I was seeing it, and to want change at that moment as much as I did. But without communication, were my expectations fair and reasonable? Maybe yes, maybe no.

When my own disappointment and frustration got to be too much for me, I acted before I could consider the consequences. I just wanted Tony to feel for one second a fraction of what I was feeling, to know for just a moment what I wanted, and to understand even to a tenth of a degree exactly why I was so upset. And so I gave him the watch. I effectively removed my heart and put it in his hands to do with as he will. In a single moment, I decided that I had no more to lose by doing that than by burying my feelings all over again and going on like all was well. I couldn't do that again. If our relationship was going to come to ruin, it was not going to happen by inaction.

The next hour was the longest and most uncertain of my life. I had played my cards, every last one of them, and had nothing left to do but see what happened. And I knew it would have to be dealt with – we live together for goodness sake's! We may have ignored a lot in our relationship, but I told him I love him, and I didn't expect something that important to go unacknowledged. So yes, I was mad, scared, and hurt both at Tony and at myself, and I had no idea what the outcome of the evening would be. Would I lose my best friend and thereby confirm our greatest fear? Or would I concede to the status quo once again? As I walked the carnival, those seemed to be the only two possible outcomes; anything else would take a miracle that precedence had taught me was not worth betting on.

But then all of the uncertainty, self-consciousness, and anger disappeared like fog in the morning sun when Tony confessed his feelings with all the unexpected honesty that had gripped me earlier in the day. He loves me, and has loved me for years. He admitted it all – his fear, his doubts, and finally, his feelings.

And so I say again, what fools we mortals be.

In one moment, with one confession, the pretense, the charade, and yes, the lies, were ended. We watched as years of denial were wiped away, leaving only the humble shame and undisguised joy of two people finally willing to love each other. And I learned with undeniable clarity that knowing unspoken feelings are there is not an adequate substitute for hearing the words said aloud, because no matter how many signs there are, no matter how much is taken for granted, a seed of doubt always remains that the other person will reciprocate. How else to explain our fear of saying it? We doubted the other's true feelings – if only to an infinitesimal degree – but enough to stop us from risking rejection for more years that we probably realize.

And yet I find it almost incomprehensible that all of that is now behind us. When I get up tomorrow – actually, in a few short hours – I can actually kiss Tony good morning. When he does something sweet, I don't have to stammer some inadequate thank you when I really just want to say, I love you so much! When he's upset about something, or when I'm upset about something, I don't have to wonder if it's okay for me to wrap my arms around him and hold him close.

Of course, it may take some getting used to. Tonight seemed to exist almost outside of time and space. We were alone in the universe, and for the very first time since we've know each other, our words and actions were wholly uncensored. We spoke freely and without reservation. In seven years, that has never happened. We kissed and held each other close. He touched my hair, and I whispered to him how many times I'd thought of him doing that. I told him that my feelings, my love, was so strong that it sometimes brought tears to my eyes trying to hold it all in, especially when I was so certain at times that I saw the same feelings reflected in his eyes. He brought his lips to mine again and told me I'd never have to hold back that way again. He said he was sorry for waiting so long to admit he loved me, but he never felt like it was enough. He wanted to be able to give me more than he had to give, and after last summer, he felt he'd lost whatever right he had to love me. How odd to think that for all we know about each other, we were so ignorant of one another's deepest motivations.

And so when morning comes, I know we're going to have to make some adjustments. How much will change? How much will stay the same? In the end, though, it doesn't matter at all. We love each other, and with seven years of friendship, support, and family behind us, I can only believe everyday will bring new discoveries that reinforce the depth of that love.

Millennia of philosophers, poets, psychologists, songwriters, playwrights, and screenwriters have celebrated the miraculous power of love, and tonight I felt for the first time in my life the absolute truth of their exaltation. Whatever the future holds for us, I know now that I was right – it was finally time I said I love him.