when?

when do you tell him you love him?

Is it when he helps you coax your new cat from out of her chosen hiding place of up inside your couch? 

He was caring without conditions, knowing full well we were not ever going to be a couple, per my own conditions. And yet he still made an effort to being in one another’s lives. But, at a friends-only tier.

Is it when he hands you his crumbled supposed-to-be-for-popcorn napkins so you can use them for tissues throughout A Star Is Born? 

He knew moments of my past pain, and whether or not he made that connection, being seen when I thought my emotions were well-masked let me know I was seated next to someone worth not letting go. And he invited me to an activity (movie-going) he loves and selected a movie he thought would be most up my alley. I saw a glimpse of his perceptive and empathetic warmth. But, it would be too early to confess love when like had only barely been conveyed. We were only just dating.

Is it when he takes terrible pictures of you when you’re sitting on his couch, sans makeup, in between The Great British Bake Off and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel binge sessions as he pours us more coffee?

 He knew of my embarrassment when my cheeks are flush when I’m tired, and the Bare Minerals powder to hide it has worn off. I could tell he thought I was beautiful, a face to be captured on his camera roll almost as much as his cat’s. But such a confession of admiration with a face not up to my own standards would be the one I’d want him to reflect on when those words were said.

Is it when you hear songs that make you think of him, and you play them on repeat every morning on the way to work?

I thought “the stars in the sky and in my eyes had lost their shine, but just like a lifeline right on time,” I met him at the End of the World. “You look at me like I’m all you want.” It was meant to be that I ever met him, it’s beautiful to think about how good it is when it Feels Like This. I love the pureness and simplicity of his calming presence, much like the five-song heavy rotation that adds peace when surrounded by chaos on my regular routes. But texting I love you at 7am on the I-65 would be dangerous and impersonal, and far too early.

Is it when you’re sitting around on Christmas Day, in the presence of his family, and you see how much love he has in his heart?

I knew he and his family were tight, but seeing it before my eyes, in the living room, discussing bowling medals and bad jokes found somehow hilarious by me and the whole room, made my childlike fantasy of a While You Were Sleeping gift exchange moment nearly come to life. He demonstrated not only care for those with who he was very close, but an authenticity of love for the sacrament of family.

Is it when he tells you to shut up after you apologize for something silly?

I’d told a friend of my “When do you say ‘I love you’?” conundrum, with the personal rule of not allowing myself to reveal my heart until after a key relationship marker: pooping in a shared bathroom. When this finally took place, I sheepishly apologized, only to then be playfully chastised for my ridiculousness as he pointed out he had the forethought for our trip to have stocked the cabinet with air freshener for this exact reason. He anticipated needs and considered what would make for the most comfortable shared space arrangement.

Is it that moment when everything comes together at once, right in the middle of a boxing class?

Lukas Graham’s Love Someone on the stereo speakers (also on my aforementioned playlist) as he joined me to try out my five-days-a-week hobby. He went all out, despite my attempt to warn of the “high intensity” part of the HIIT training that would ultimately catch up to his overenthusiastic commitment to keep up with seasoned class-goers. In his faint appearance, he disappointedly told me he was regrettably unable to continue, and that he was sorry. It almost slipped out of my mouth in response to his sweet eyes, determined heart, and sensible mind to know when enough was enough, but a “We’re a team.” reassurance, and an outstretched hand, was my lightning punch sub-in text.

Is it when you’ve written and rewritten a blog post – never happy with your edits and structure – and decide whatever you’ve written will never be enough?

Yep. On the couch, with him comfortably on his side and me perched on the edge in my usual well-postured position, I monologued the rough draft from the above. Pauses for deep breaths to hold back tears, adding to the dramatic effect in my confession of love, were sprinkled throughout. I told him. “I love you.” And then quickly began to make light of some distant topic after he reciprocated sentiments.

I’m the luckiest woman to have ever met and now fallen in love with this man named Joe.

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