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As girls will do, I spent many years of my life infatuated with villains. Minor villains, most often, but there were a couple of major ones too. And then one summer, while I thought I was waiting for the sound of my ringtone because it might be my current villain, I realized that I was actually thrilling to those times when it was a hero instead.

It took too long, but I realized I was in love, and more than that, it was the first time in my life that I was proud of myself for being in love with someone. I don’t know how else to explain that. Loving him was something I had to earn. I had to learn things and become a better person for my soul to respond so wholly to someone who was good, and not desperately flawed and carelessly destructive. With him I didn’t have to be untouched by anything, I didn’t need to be strong enough to bear us all. I didn’t need to fix him, or save him, or be the light in his darkness. He was the light in mine.

I don’t think I can explain how strange and amazing that is, to find a light in my own darkness. As I said, it took too long for me to know this. I can’t say that even had I known it with time to spare it would have mattered, though. I’m neither as romantic nor as cynical as that.

I found a reason to leave the city because I hated the weight of my wordlessness, which expanded when I spent time with him, and I couldn’t stand not to spend time with him, so I carried this heaviness with me all the time. Like lead, somehow expanding its volume suddenly and exponentially, filling my insides and rising up my throat. When I was away, it seemed to compress itself into a tiny spot in my gut. It didn’t seem to hurt anymore, so I found my way back to the city. And I tried to teach myself to see better in the dark, and not to look for him. And when he left the city, I would teach myself to be detached.

Weirdly, it worked. I love him, I think I will always love him. He is one of the best people I know. I won’t indulge pointless what-ifs or one-days; instead, I am fiercely glad that he exists, and that’s all. I am happy knowing that the fact that he is alive makes this breaking, gutted world a better place.

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