From spontaneous drives in the dead of night with people I had just met to unexpected benders filled with expectedly reckless behavior, I was eager to take every opportunity I had missed having spent the past year as a freshman online. Along the way, I met someone who I instantly clicked with. He always took the time to show genuine interest in my day, from asking what I thought about the dining hall menus to hearing out my long winded rants about my latest headache with linear algebra. We messaged each other throughout the day, and I would find a wide grin plastered across my face after we parted ways for the night. Most importantly, I felt comfortable enough with him to open up about my sexuality, something I had previously never shared with anyone. The Thursday before finals week, all of our other friends were going out for the night – conveniently, to a party hosted by the very frat my roommate is in. With my room to ourselves, and after weeks, if not months, of what we thought was sly flirting (contrary to what our friends say now), we confessed our feelings for one another and shared our first kiss.
The next morning, we decided to trade our rings. The gold ring on my left index finger had been given to me as a token to commemorate the twelve years I had been committed to my choir. Throughout the quarter, my ring had served as a comforting reminder to reminisce about the adventures of the past. His silver ring had a central band with a pattern on crashing waves; the center spun with a gentle flick of a finger. In similar fashion, the silver ring provided a reflective window into his past travels. As I sat observing the details of the ring’s design later that evening, I couldn’t help but dream about our future.
As the onslaught of finals came to an end and set the holiday season in motion, life was akin to a fantasy. Free of responsibilities for the first time in months, we spent what felt like every moment together. His parents welcomed me into their home. I sat at their dining table savoring the pleasant sweetness of the tender, caramelized korean galbi prepared by his dad. I spent time with his mother, who eagerly wanted to know everything about my life. We drove around the suburban roads aimlessly, for no other reason than to enjoy each other’s company. The next thing I knew, he was wrapped in my arms, laying with me on my bed. The same bed I had spent countless nights dreaming about someone who would come sweep me off my feet, and here they were, lying next to me with their chest rising from each breath.
But nothing can last forever. The next thing I knew, the stress of deadlines and the rush of school returned to the forefront of our lives. Weekend escapades were swiftly replaced with silent studying. Even when one of us was miraculously free, there were always some prior obligations to clubs or friends that got in the way. Our relationship felt out of focus, perpetually clouded by stress and exhaustion.
I found myself alone one night in a stairwell after a profoundly trivial argument with him, exacerbated by impending deadlines and personal frustrations with school. All the doubts I had suppressed began resurfacing at that moment: Was I incapable of providing love to another person? How could I ever believe someone could tolerate my short fuse and insensitive remarks? As my thoughts began to swirl into a howling vortex, I tasted the salt of my tears as they trickled down my cheeks and fell towards the ground.
As my eyes drifted towards the concrete floor, I found I had been absentmindedly spinning his ring. It had never left my finger through our time together. As the ring whistled through the stairwell, I began to wistfully reminisce on those past months. How his arms had wrapped around me as the sun set on the Pacific atop Mount Tamalpais. How we had our ears pierced together in Santa Monica one random afternoon. How we would book a Zipcar in the middle of the night to drive around the highways of Los Angeles, harmonizing to our favorite songs with our hands clasped together. In my heart, I felt a pull to reach out to him and communicate how I felt. Words, however much lost in translation, would never alter his considerate, kind heart. As I dialed his number and my phone began to ring, I couldn’t help but crack a smile.